Temple Mount shooters release rekindles memories

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BALTIMORE (JTA) — It happened more than 35 years ago, but it was the only time that Louis Berney ever saw his friend Alan Harry Goodman lose his temper. The two, classmates at Baltimore City College high school, were playing an informal game of touch football with other students.

"It stayed with me because Alan was so even-tempered, so mild-mannered," recalled Berney, a Baltimore writer. "For all I knew, it was justified. But he wasn't a person who showed many emotions. Sometimes, people hold things in and explode."

Goodman, who grew up in Northwest Baltimore, gained more infamy April 11, 1982, when he stormed Jerusalem's Temple Mount in a brutal shooting rampage.

Wearing an Israeli army uniform and carrying an M-16 automatic rifle issued weeks earlier, he fired upon Muslim worshippers at the Haram al-Sharif, the third holiest shrine in Islam.

Goodman later said he committed the crime to "liberate" the Temple Mount for the Jewish people.

One person was killed and four others were wounded. During an ensuing riot, another Muslim was killed by an Israeli policeman.

Goodman — who was a follower of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane — was sentenced to life imprisonment, plus 40 years.

But after serving 15-1/2 years, he was released from an Israeli prison and sent back to the United States on an El Al flight on Sunday, Oct. 26. Although he moved to Israel about 20 years ago and became a citizen there, Goodman retained his American citizenship.

According to published reports, Goodman, 53, was freed despite initial opposition from Israeli prosecutors during an Oct. 9 parole board hearing. He was released on the condition that he would not live in or visit Israel for the remaining eight years of his reduced sentence. Israeli law permits a convicted felon to seek parole after serving two-thirds of his sentence.

Gadi Baltiansky, press attaché for the Israeli Embassy in Washington, denied that Goodman's release was orchestrated by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's administration to appease right-wing constituents.

"We knew the day of release would come. It's not a surprise," he said. "It's all according to a timetable."

At the time of his arrest, Goodman said that he wanted to avenge the deaths of Jews killed by Arab terrorists. His life sentence was reduced twice by Chaim Herzog, then-president of Israel, and a third time from 31 to 24 years by President Ezer Weizman.

Although describing Goodman as a "bit of a loner," Berney said he was a friendly individual. "He wasn't anti-social. He had friends, but no one that he was extremely close with."

Their friendship continued for two years after graduation, when Goodman attended Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland and Berney was studying at nearby Kenyon College.

"Most of our conversations were of an intellectual nature rather than political," said Berney. "But he never led me to believe he had a passionate feeling about Israel.

"Whatever made him become the person he became happened after college. There was no indication that he was capable of doing anything fanatic. He was a good person to spend time with."

Berney recalled that he and his fellow former high school classmates were "shocked" after the Temple Mount shooting.

Although Goodman is reportedly an observant Jew, his aunt, Marlene Schapiro, said she does not remember him as being particularly religious while living in Baltimore.

Schapiro — who said she spoke by phone with Goodman about once a year during his incarceration — said she hopes her nephew will relocate in Baltimore, find employment and begin a new life. "I only wish the best for him," she said. "Blood is blood."

Jewish community leaders reacted to Goodman's release and return to Baltimore with a mixture of surprise and uncertainty.

Robert O. Freedman, president of Baltimore Hebrew University, said he believes Goodman was freed to balance the release of Palestinian political prisoners in the aftermath of last month's assassination attempt of a Hamas leader in Jordan.

"What Israel has done is export a convicted murderer who in no way has atoned for what he did," Freedman said. "If he recognized the gravity of what he did, it would be one thing. But this guy takes pride in it.

"I would hope that the religious community — Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist — would condemn what he did and his current attitude."