In the mind of Alan Goodman, it is still the greatest moment of his life, that Easter Sunday nearly 16 years ago in Jerusalem when he stood upon the rock of Mohammed, firing an M-16 into the huge golden dome overhead. Fortified by alcohol, caffeine and a farewell puff on a cigar, he was a wobbly but willing initiate to the fraternity of terrorism.
One Arab man lay dead. Four others were wounded. Shortly he would have the attention of the world, and six days of bloody rioting would follow.
Now, after 15 1/2 years in prison and a few twists of the Israeli legal system, Goodman, 53, is back where he started -- a quiet fellow on the streets of Baltimore whom you'd hardly notice in a crowd.
Since his return Oct. 27, home has been his mother's modest apartment in a Pimlico high-rise for the elderly, a quiet place where he follows the fortunes of local sports teams, catches a bus here and there, and mostly keeps to himself while pondering what to do with the rest of his life.
His violent days are over, he insists, in the manner of an aging ballplayer scoffing at rumors of a comeback.
"Terrorism," he says, "is a young man's game."
As for remorse, he has none, a self-appraisal nurtured during his prison years by visitors with their own extremist agenda.
He was a hero, they told him, a prisoner of conscience who had merely retaliated against Arab violence.
But at some level, Goodman now acknowledges, he had additional enemies in mind as he pulled the trigger in April 1982.
There was America itself, the country he'd fled in anger in 1964, first for Europe, then for Israel.
Perhaps more important, there were his failures with women, particularly the two girls in Ohio who had played him for a fool on another long-ago Sunday, 19 years earlier.
"It was all part of it," he says in a low, hoarse voice, seated heavily before a table during arecent four-hour conversation. And with that statement, he begins at last to answer the question the world has always posed.
Namely, how did a quiet, intelligent, passive, not-very-religious graduate of City College, well-mannered even if a bit awkward, end up as a self-appointed Jewish avenger, waving an automatic weapon in the heart of the Holy Land?
Searching out the reasons is still difficult for him. His beard graying, his voice faltering after years of infrequent conversation, Goodman grows edgy navigating the darker passages of his past.
At times, his eyes roll back slightly in his head and he rocks gently in his seat, byproducts of long-standing psychological problems and the prescription medications he takes to hold them at bay.
Doctors suggest that he also may not be the most reliable witness, saying that in the past he has sometimes been troubled by voices inside his head.
But he talks on anyway, hoping, he says, "to state my case seriously, and with dignity, and so people can see that I am not dangerous anymore, and that my cause was just."
Not the numbers, the spot
In the annals of terrorism, Alan Goodman's body count registers near the bottom. He owes his notoriety more to location, the grounds of the Temple Mount.
It would be hard to find a more contentious place, claimed over the centuries by competing religions, empires, conquerors and zealots. The latter-day combatants have been Muslims and Jews.
Muslims built a mosque on the site, as well as a magnificent shrine, the Dome of the Rock, to house the stone slab from which, tradition says, Mohammed leapt to the heavens on horseback in the seventh century.
Centuries earlier, the Jews had built Solomon's Temple on the spot, and it and its successor stood there until the Romans wrecked the last one in A.D. 70.
That's why Jews venerate the remains of the Western Wall abutting the Temple Mount. And it's why some Jews, such as Goodman, would like to take the whole place back.
Goodman was a role model of sorts for Baruch Goldstein, who in February 1994 carried a machine gun into a mosque on another plot of disputed land, in Hebron, and killed 29 worshipers.
But Goldstein was a deeply religious man, a gung-ho settler on one of the most dangerous corners of the Israeli-occupied West Bank. A doctor, he stoked his hatred by treating friends and neighbors stabbed or shot by Arabs.
Goodman, on the other hand, was and is a bundle of contradictions: an ardent Jewish nationalist who speaks little Hebrew and has little use for Judaism as a religion. His encounters with Arab violence came through news accounts.
To hear him tell it now, his more harrowing experiences came in America, where he incurred deep emotional scars during adolescence.
"He was a young fellow when I saw him, extremely high IQ, kind of a mathematically minded fellow, but he could never accomplish anything, or follow through," says Dr. David Agle, the first psychiatrist to treat Goodman back in 1963, when he was a 19-year-old student in Cleveland at Western Reserve University (now known as Case Western Reserve).
'No prediction of violence'
Goodman had "a severe obsessive-compulsive disorder," Agle says. "He was so tightened up with 'I want to do this but I can't.' These people can develop into psychotics, but I had no prediction of violence in the fellow.
"It was much more a case of someone so tightly bound up that he could hardly accomplish anything, much less hurt somebody."
Those who knew him at City College a few years earlier had similar recollections: shy, friendly and bright, but awkward, ungainly and easily embarrassed.
In college, he began struggling academically as well. After his freshman year in 1963, his parents wanted him to come home for the summer.
But he had grown used to his freedom and privacy. He hated the idea of sharing a bedroom with his younger brother, so he stayed in Cleveland, renting a room in a Jewish fraternity house.
It would prove to be a mistake, culminating on Labor Day weekend, when an experience in fear and humiliation would change the course of his life.
He describes it this way:
The frat house phone rang Saturday night, and a girl asked for a name Goodman had never heard. When he told her that, she seemed content to talk to him instead.
She and a friend were at the house, and their parents were away for the weekend, she said. Come on out.
But it was late, and they lived in the far suburb of Willowick, so Goodman declined. Then come tomorrow afternoon for Sunday dinner, she said. A more experienced guy might have sensed a practical joke, but for a lonely boy without a date it sounded like opportunity.
Goodman made the long bus ride to the tidy middle-class home to find the two girls there, plus a third, all around his age. They immediately offered a beer. He didn't drink, but took it anyway. They went off to the kitchen, and emerged a few minutes later nearly in hysterics, shrieking at him to get out of the house.
He left, shaken and bewildered. Then he looked over his shoulder from the sidewalk and saw them in a window, laughing. They motioned him toward the back door.
He entered the kitchen, found it empty, then walked on into the living room, where the girls again erupted into hysterics and fled to the front lawn.
He waited inside, too stunned to move, then looked out a window to see a lawn full of agitated neighbors and a policeman with a drawn gun. He walked out in surrender, hearing one of the girls shout, "How dare you do this to a good Catholic girl?"
The Willowick police took statements from two of the girls, who accused him of attempted rape. Panicky, he asked to telephone his uncle in Baltimore, a lawyer named Solomon Schapiro.
Schapiro agreed to fly out to Cleveland the next day. No magistrates were on duty for the holiday weekend, so Goodman hadn't been charged.
Accusations are recanted
By the next afternoon the girls had recanted their story, and a policeman said a practical joke had gotten out of hand. He asked Goodman to sign a waiver releasing the police from liability for false arrest. By the time Goodman's uncle arrived, it was all over.
The Willowick police say they have no record of any such encounter, arrest or signed release.
"They would have definitely done a report on that," says Lt. Don Crocker, who wasn't on the force at the time, "especially if he was arrested and signed a release, because we would have had liability for that."
Goodman says he doesn't remember the girls' names and he never mentioned the experience to his psychiatrist, although he began seeing Agle a month later.
His uncle, Solomon Schapiro, died recently, but Schapiro's wife, Marlene, says she recalls her husband flying to Cleveland that weekend to help Goodman. Asked if the circumstances were like those described by Goodman, she says, "It was something like that."
Whatever happened, in Goodman's mind the weekend took on the portentous feel of a turning point. Embittered at America in general and at women and Roman Catholics in particular, he became disillusioned with life.
For a while his grades improved, but his social struggles continued. His father died in the summer of 1965, and he decided to quit school.
He vowed to quit his country as well, but not until April 1967 did he get up the nerve to head to Europe, where Scandinavia loomed in his mind as a bohemian paradise of free and available women.
Journey to Temple Mount
"If it hadn't been for that incident" in Cleveland, he says now, "I probably would never have left the States. I would never have gone to Europe except for a short vacation. I probably would not have gotten up to Scandinavia. Probably would never have done this thing in Israel."
Scandinavia lived up to most of his expectations. He picked up jobs here and there, mostly by teaching English, but mostly he picked up women, he says.
Then, in June 1967, along came the Six Day War, and his life shifted again. Israel, sensing a possible attack from its Arab neighbors, mounted a surprise offensive that captured the West Bank from Jordan, Sinai and the Gaza Strip from Egypt, and the Golan Heights from Syria.
The world was astonished, impressed. And for a young Jewish man on the make in Sweden, there was a certain macho cachet to be gained. That fall he decided he had to see Israel for himself.
First visit to Jerusalem
Arriving in Jerusalem, he says, "I thought I had come home." There was optimism in the streets, as if all the country's worries were over. He soaked it up for a few months and returned to Scandinavia to continue his wanderings.
But he could not find a wife he sought; and when Israel was briefly knocked back on its heels by another war in 1973, he decided to return to Jerusalem. He found that the country's changed mood reflected his own: Perhaps things weren't going to work out so well, after all.
He returned again to Europe. He also visited Baltimore regularly. Then he visited Israel for a third time in January 1978, with his frustrations having built to an even higher pitch.
During that stay, Arab terrorists attacked a bus, killing more than 30 Israelis. It was enough to make his long-stored anger break to the surface.
If he'd had a weapon, he says, he would have retaliated the next day. Instead, he decided to apply for temporary residency, knowing that three years later he would qualify for citizenship and a hitch in the army. Then he would have his gun.
According to later reports by his doctors, this must have been about the time that Goodman crossed over into "residual schizophrenia," says a letter submitted to prison officials June 23, 1996.
The letter, signed by "Dr. L. Landa, expert psychiatrist, and Dina Kleeger, head clinical criminologist," said that at the time of Goodman's imprisonment he was a person who "may hear voices and he may express empty thoughts."
His behavior frightened those around him. The principal at the Hebrew school where he enrolled later told local newspapers that his stares and obscene remarks frightened female classmates. He roughed up an Arab cook and tore apart a library's copies of the Koran, the Islamic holy book.
Meanwhile, he moved among various rooming houses and volunteer collectives, or kibbutzim, taking jobs on farms or in factories.
He also departed the country for months at a time, making an eight-month trip back to Baltimore in fall 1979, where he lived in a gloomy rooming house in the 100 block of W. Franklin St. for $22 a week.
His call-up for military service came in summer 1981. At age 37, he was about to become a soldier.
It wasn't his first brush with military service. During college, he had been turned down for the draft in the United States on psychological grounds, he says. But when an Israeli army doctor asked about health problems, Goodman mentioned only hay fever.
He then scored "a 97 out of a hundred" at the pre-induction physical, he says. "They gave everybody a 97. If you could stand up and breathe, they drafted you."
Soon he would have his gun. Due to report back for training in nine months, he visited his family in Baltimore again, knowing he might never be back.
His unit was mostly immigrants in their 30s -- "a lot of Russians, a fair number of Americans, some South Americans and even one guy from India. They gave us our rifles at about midnight of the first day and took us to a basketball court. I remember the light was very dim."
A sergeant took apart the rifle and named each part as the conscripts listened. The Hebrew names baffled Goodman, and he could remember only the word for the firing pin -- "Shoshana," a woman's name. The other Americans helped him with the rest.
Ten days later, on a Wednesday, he got his first leave, two days for the Passover holiday, which led that year into Easter weekend. He wangled a few extra days to extend through the next Sabbath, which would begin at sundown Friday. This would be the weekend he would finally exact his revenge from the Arabs, he decided.
Adrift in the city
A fellow trainee invited Goodman to his family's home for a Passover Seder, but an exhausted Goodman went back instead to his Jerusalem rooming house and slept for 18 hours. He then spent Friday walking around the city, wondering what to do next.
"I thought about going back to the base, because I would like to have had more practice shooting the rifle, and I maybe could have tried to get some grenades or explosives," he said. "But the army doesn't just hand out explosives. All they hand out is rifles."
He decided to make his attack that Sunday morning on the Temple Mount, to "liberate" it for the Jews. The day before he considered having a big night on the town but found he wasn't up for it.
Instead, he says, "I had a steak in a small restaurant in downtown Jerusalem, and then I went back to my room, and I had saved a bottle of wine. I almost always sleep well after drinking a bottle of wine.
"But I don't know if it was the tension or what, but I didn't sleep well. And I woke up with a headache on Sunday morning.
"I considered again the idea of going back to the base. For more practice. I wanted to be perfect on my big day, the biggest day of my life, and I was not perfect that morning."
He tried drinking away his headache with a quarter-bottle of arak, a licorice-flavored liqueur. The pain lingered, but now there seemed to be no turning back. He dressed in his army uniform, picked up his rifle and walked into the streets.
"I took a bus to the central bus station, and I went to the cafe there and had two cups of black coffee, and I still had a headache. So I bought a copy of the Jerusalem Post, and I was just looking at the headlines. I had brought some cigars from America, and I had saved one last cigar for that Sunday morning. So I started puffing on it in the cafe. Then I walked into downtown Jerusalem, about 15 or 20 minutes."
He stopped in a small park near where the new City Hall now stands and loaded an ammunition clip. Forbidden to carry a loaded rifle through town, he covered the clip with his newspaper and walked on, now within five minutes of the stone-walled Old City, where the golden Dome of the Rock dominates the ancient skyline from atop the Temple Mount.
He passed through the New Gate into the Old City's Christian Quarter. It was Easter Sunday, shortly before 9 a.m., and the shops of the narrow streets were closed.
In the Muslim Quarter there was more bustle. Even here, a uniformed Israeli soldier carrying a rifle was hardly an unusual sight, so he walked on unimpeded, unnoticed.
He soon reached the Via Dolorosa, which tradition holds is the path Jesus took to his crucifixion, since worn down for centuries by religious pilgrims and chattering tour groups, which were out in force that morning. He was closing in on the Temple Mount.
'That exact second'
Ducking down a narrow side street, he turned toward an ill-guarded entrance he had noticed on previous trips. At other entrances to the Temple Mount he would likely have been stopped by Israeli soldiers.
"There was one guard there, an Arab guard, who I knew couldn't see anybody until you were right on him. I took one last puff of the cigar and threw it away. This was the last contact I was going to have with the outside world, and with America, for a long time, and I remember that exact second."
The guard looked up.
"He waved his hands at me not to come in."
Goodman was tense, like an athlete before a big game, he says. He raised the rifle and squeezed the trigger, shooting the guard twice. "And with the first shot all the tension and nervousness dissipated."
An Arab policeman ran toward him, drawing his gun. Goodman shot him, too. At a small police station nearby, a door began opening, so Goodman fired again. The door slammed shut.
Another man ran toward him. Goodman shot him as well, and he began running uphill across open ground toward the stunning painted-tile walls of the Dome of the Rock, where the large heavy doors began to close.
He fired, now within 20 yards, but the doors kept moving. He fired a second and third time and the doors stopped. One guard lay wounded. Another, 65-year-old Haj Yamini, was dead.
"It was not my intention to kill simple workers," he says now, as if on the verge of at last offering an apology. "I wanted to shoot armed men.
"But I had no choice. I couldn't really see what was happening. I wasn't shooting to kill anybody, just to get them to stop closing the door, and it all happened very fast."
He senses the contradiction in his remarks, and backpedals a moment.
"Yes, there is a contradiction there. Yeah, well, um, I wanted to shoot high-value types. I did not attack the center of the world in order to kill simple workers. On the other hand, they were the only Arabs up there at that time."
Inside the Dome were worshipers and tourists, gathered in a rising shriek of panic around Mohammed's famous holy rock, itself surrounded by a locked fence.
"I had considered shooting the Arabs [in the building], and I was pointing my rifle at one worker, and he was sinking down beside a pillar. I looked into his eyes, and he was so afraid and miserable that I didn't have the heart to do it, or the other Arabs.
"So I shot the lock off of the gate to the rock, and I climbed on the rock and fired a few shots into the dome. And everybody fell on the floor."
He shouted to the leader of the tour group to take his people outside, and to tell Israeli police that he wanted to surrender. He ordered everyone else out as well. Beyond the door, a mob was gathering, angry and shouting. He fired a warning shot to hold it at bay.
"Then after the shooting had stopped, there was an Arab who wandered inside. He seemed to be in a state of shock. I was standing on the rock smoking a cigarette, and he asked me for a cigarette, and I gave him one.
"Then I told him that I wanted the police. He walked out and they came in. I waved the rifle over my head and told them that it was all over. And I handed the detective the rifle and jumped down."
The police sneaked him out a rear exit while the mobs began to erupt in their own violence. More Arabs were killed and wounded by police bullets, and for the next six days the city would endure its worst unrest since the 1967 war.
At his four-month trial the following year, in 1983, Goodman's lawyers argued unsuccessfully that he should have been judged insane. Goodman testified that he'd been acting on orders from God. He shouted nationalist slogans and tirades against Arabs.
He also alluded vaguely to being motivated by anti-Semitic behavior in America, but not until now has he elaborated publicly on those remarks, saying that in firing upon the Temple Mount he had also been striking back against those girls in Cleveland, among others.
"Definitely," he says. "Against those girls. Against Catholics. About the fact that I had not found the Scandinavian girl that I wanted to marry. That was part of it. A distant part of it, but that was part of it -- frustration about the failures that I'd always had."
The court found him guilty of murder, and he received a life sentence plus 40 years. A day later, he was put into a psychiatric prison unit, where he stayed for the next four months. It was the only time in prison that he felt threatened, by the frequent fights that broke out.
The authorities moved him to a solitary cell where he stayed 23 hours each day. Except for the single hour allotted for exercise, ,, his only daily companionship came from the guards who brought his meals or magazines. His only window was too high for a view.
"I felt at home," Goodman says of this bleak existence. "It was a good place for me. It was the right place. I had what I needed, which was basically peace and quiet."
Six years later, a new warden decided, against Goodman's wishes, to move him to the wing for ultra-religious prisoners. The noisy chanting of the dawn prayers, he says, "nearly knocked me out of bed every morning."
His days of intense solitude were over, and he began to make a few friends.
All along he received medication.
The psychiatrists' letter to the court last year said that his condition had become "very stable in the last few years" but that he suffered from neglect and depression, for which he received medication.
Over the years he also received regular weekly visitors. On rare occasions they were his brother or uncle. His mother never came. He says he never wanted her to see him there.
But most often the visitors were people such as Joseph Alster, 75, co-founder of Defenders of Jewish Prisoners of Conscience. The German-born Alster moved to Israel from the United States 13 years ago, armed with rigid political views that fit nicely with Goodman's.
"I support what he did," Alster says by telephone from Jerusalem, echoing the message he conveyed to Goodman over the years. "He did what he had to do. He was very upset that Jews were being killed, and he believed that the Temple Mount historically and rightfully belonged to the Jewish people."
So, while medication and counseling might have steered Goodman toward introspection, or possible feelings of remorse, Alster and others steered him toward a view in which no apology was necessary.
Visitors also came from Kiryat Arba to offer support, Alster says. That's the settlement near Hebron that was the home of terrorist Baruch Goldstein, where neighbors made a virtual shrine out of his grave after he killed 29 Arabs.
Freed from larger worries of guilt, Goodman developed concerns about the outside world that tended toward other matters.
"One thing I've been worried about," he says, "is that Cal Ripken would retire before I had a chance to see him play."
Over the years, authorities shortened his sentence twice. He also began receiving weekend furloughs, but those stopped after he returned a year and a half ago to the Temple Mount, where an Arab guard recognized him and alerted police.
Finally, on Oct. 26, the court granted his freedom, after the psychiatrists concluded that keeping him in jail "doesn't serve any purpose because of his psychological situation."
His lawyer, Baruch Ben Yosef, says, "I know he was given drugs to handle his problem. How effective and how efficient and how professional the treatment was, I have absolutely no idea."
His only restriction was that he was barred from Israel for eight years. That meant going back to Baltimore. Alster bought him clothes and a plane ticket home, then sent him off to the Tel Aviv airport with Herbert Sunshine, another American expatriate.
Sunshine, too, believes in Goodman's righteousness and is another member of the support network for extreme right-wing organizations that have at times embarrassed the Israeli government. A former press secretary to the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, the founder of the Jewish Defense League, Sunshine spent a week helping Goodman settle back into home after his return.
Sunshine wouldn't comment for this article. But a local businessman who has also helped Goodman says he was appalled to hear Sunshine refer to Goodman as "a Jewish hero."
It wasn't the first time Goodman has heard such praise, of course, and it likely won't be the last. And that's a shame, the businessman says.
"Alan's support system did not serve him at all well in that regard," says the man, who didn't wish to be identified.
But not even years of positive reinforcement have convinced Goodman that the actions of his so-called "greatest day" were ultimately successful.
"For a few months after the event, I did believe there was some kind of meaning to this experience, even a religious meaning," he says. "But that wore off after a while, and I saw it as just another violent incident in the world."
Nor does he, for now, have any wish to return to the scene of his crime, even if his eight-year restriction were to end tomorrow.
"I've done my thing there," he says. "There are many actions that should be taken against the Arab fascists, but it will have to be other people that do this."
What, then, will he do here?
The businessman who helped him link up with a psychiatrist and a social worker, through Jewish Family Services, foresees this: "Alan needs long-term therapy, medication, and to be able to get some sort of menial job to occupy his time and give him some small amount of income. That is the future for Alan Goodman. His best bet is to take care of his mom."
It is not a prospect with which Goodman would quibble, and that brings him to a final contradiction.
Having painstakingly told his story to a reporter and mentioned that he's doing a television interview the next day, Goodman professes that his greatest wish is "to live the rest of my life in peace and quiet."
So after three hours of interviews and a fourth at lunch, Goodman steps out of a Calvert Street restaurant, shakes hands and shambles off to catch a bus.
After a block he is barely distinguishable from others on the sidewalk in the fading afternoon light. He is just another aging man of Baltimore, hoarding his secrets as he makes his way home.
Pub Date: 12/17/97