A man suspected of beheading his ex-wife and then strolling around outside while holding her severed head told police investigators that he was acting on divine instruction.
The suspect, Meir Ephraim Goldstein, 34, appeared in the Nazareth Magistrate’s Court on Thursday, with the judge ordering his remand be extended by two weeks, during which he will be kept in a psychiatric hospital.
Goldstein was arrested in the northern city of Tiberias on Wednesday, after neighbors informed police that they saw a man wandering around the neighborhood in bloodstained clothes clutching a woman’s severed head under his arm.
Goldstein also told investigators following his arrest that after killing his former wife, Adele Goldstein, 33, he is now the messiah.
“God called to me and said to me, ‘This is the seed of Amalek and the Prophet Hezekiah did not cut off Amalek’s head and therefore did not earn the right to be the king messiah. Because I have chopped off the head of the seed of Amalek, I am acknowledged as the king messiah,” he said.
In biblical Jewish tradition, the nomadic Amalekite tribe came to be viewed as the essence of evil, and Jews were enjoined to eradicate it.
His lawyer, Ephraim Dimri, said that Goldstein is refusing to explain his motives for the murder, but that in eight days — “the eight days of Hannukah,” according to Goldstein — a miracle will occur that will allow him to explain why he murdered his wife.
Dimri said that although Goldstein underwent an initial psychiatric examination following his arrest, he should undergo further examination.
He also requested that the court allow for a review of Goldstein’s medical and psychiatric history in order “to see where there was a failure.”
After Goldstein was arrested for killing his ex-wife and then trying to set her apartment on fire Wednesday, witnesses recounted a gruesome scene.
“At first I thought he was walking around with a doll’s head, I didn’t realize what it was. He was standing next to the dumpster and was trying to burn it,” Wissam Darawshe told reporters, adding that the head was wrapped in a towel.
Other neighbors said that they heard Goldstein knocking on apartment doors shouting, “I killed Amalek!”
Police were able to detain Goldstein in the street shortly afterward without a fight. However, they then noticed a fire in his ex-wife’s adjacent apartment, which he had set alight. When they entered they found the body.
Magen David Adom paramedics pronounced the death of Adel Goldstein immediately upon arrival at the scene. “It was a very difficult sight to see,” said medic Talib Abdullah.
“We had nothing to do upon arrival other than pronounce her death,” he added.
Neighbors said the couple divorced two weeks ago, and did not have any children. Goldstein was reportedly mentally unstable.
A neighbor also told Haaretz that “since the divorce [Goldstein] was like a homeless person and would sleep some of the time in the study hall” of the religious seminary where he taught, while other neighbors said “he was a little eccentric lately.”
Channel 2 reported on Wednesday that Goldstein immigrated to Israel in 1991 from Moldova and was once hospitalized in a psychiatric facility.
Friends told Ynet that Adele Goldstein had spoken about how relieved she was to be divorced, but also expressed her fears that her ex-husband would harm her. It was not immediately clear if she had complained to police.
The alleged killer’s invocation of Amalek was eerily reminiscent of another recent gruesome killing in the area.
Nadav Sela, 28, was accused on March 2 in the same court of stabbing to death his wife, Dor Crasanti-Sela, 23; sons Yosef, just under 2, and Binyamin, 8 months; and neighbor Nachman Atia, 11, in the family’s home in Migdal, just outside Tiberias, on January 28.
The charge sheet said that when police arrested Sela shortly after the killings at a nearby grove of olive trees, he confessed, and mumbled the words “They’re Amalekites, they’re Amalekites.”
Stuart Winer and Jacob Magid contributed to this report.