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Israel's enemy within: A community on the edge

Part 2: The West Bank settlement of Kfar Tapuach, home to many followers of Meir Kahane

Settler Yehuda Goldberg, whose father used to be a New York adman, at home with his army-issue assault rifle. Israeli officers from the Shin Bet (Israel's FBI) searched Goldberg's bedroom at his family's house in Kfar Tapuach in the West Bank when he was just 16. (© Gillian Laub)

KFAR TAPUACH SETTLEMENT, West Bank — Yehuda Goldberg was 16 when the Israeli intelligence agents came for him.

“They surrounded the house and knocked on the door — because they don’t want you to jump out of the window,” said Yehuda, who has an unblinking, serious stare and wears the large kippa of the religious settler youth movement. “It was four or five in the morning. They came also four or five into the house.”

The Israeli intelligence officers, from the Shin Bet (Israel’s FBI), handcuffed Goldberg, whose father Lenny emigrated from the United States in 1985. They searched his bedroom at the family house in the settlement of Kfar Tapuach, which is known as a stronghold of followers of the late, Brooklyn-born Israeli politician Rabbi Meir Kahane. Kahane’s followers are generally considered terrorists by the Israeli government.

Lenny is proud of his son. “He was going hand-to-hand combat with soldiers,” he says, of Yehuda’s role in protests against the evacuation of settlements. “Our generation used to give cups of coffee to soldiers. The police found weapons in his room.”

Israeli settlers in Kfar Tapuach Settlement
Chaya Belogorodsky and Moriah Goldberg in the Kfar Tapuach Settlement.
(© Gillian Laub)

“They came to court and said they found [rifle] magazines and bullets and knives and things like that, and firecrackers with nails around them,” said Yehuda, now 20, when I met him at his home in January, as the Israeli military was wrapping up its war on Hamas in Gaza. Yehuda was on weekend leave from the army, so that he could spend shabbat with his family.“I was found guilty for that. The punishment was not a big deal because I was going to the army. They gave me 200 hours of community service. They gave me a suspended sentence. If I do the same thing I go to jail. Months, years, I don’t know.”

Yehuda did not want to say what he had intended to do with the ammunition and weapons the intelligence officers had found. “I can’t answer the question,” he said, in his imperfect English, sitting on a plastic garden chair outside the house, where his mother was preparing the shabbat dinner. “It won’t help nobody if I tell what. They tried to connect it to things that happened. There was a report of one Arab car being hit between an Arab village and Tapuach.” He paused. “I didn’t say I did it.”

Later he said: “It’s not weird to have such things in our area. Legally, it’s not allowed. But every kid can get ammunition.”

Yehuda’s case took two years to resolve, but soon after his arrest the Shin Bet came to get him again. He had a 19-year-old friend who had recently moved to Kfar Tapuach. His name was Eden Natan-Zada. On Aug. 4, 2005, Natan-Zada, who was AWOL from the Israeli army at the time, opened fire with his army-issued M-16 rifle inside a bus in Northern Israel. Natan-Zada killed four Israeli Arabs on the bus and wounded nearly two dozen more before he was restrained and beaten to death by the crowd that had gathered. The prime minister at the time, Ariel Sharon, called Eden “a bloodthirsty Jewish terrorist.”