He told Israel's army radio he was sick and tired of the army not protecting Jews in Hebron, an Arab town with a Jewish enclave in the occupied West Bank.
Goldstein, 42, described as a member of an extremist anti- Arab group, emigrated from the United States 11 years ago. A married man with four children, he lived in the militant Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba just outside Hebron.
As Arab worshippers knelt in prayer at dawn in the Tomb of the Patriarchs, he slipped inside with an automatic rifle and started blazing away. At least 48 died and scores lay wounded. Goldstein, clad in an army uniform, lay dead too. Witnesses said enraged Arabs jumped on him and tried to strangle him.
He dropped a suicide note off at the local council office on the way to his mission of carnage.
An acquaintance, who asked not to be named, said Goldstein had refused to treat wounded Arabs while serving as an army doctor during Israel's invasion of Lebanon in the early 1980s. He quoted Goldstein as once saying he had joined the army 'to help secure Israel and to kill Arabs'.