The body of Hillel Lieberman was discovered Sunday in a cave near the Palestinian village of Beit Furik, about six miles from Joseph's Tomb, an Israeli army outpost and Jewish seminary in the Palestinian-controlled town of Nablus. Israel had withdrawn Saturday from the enclave, a site of daily gun battles for the past week.
The New York Times said the victim was a second cousin of Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, the Democratic Party candidate for vice president. The senator's spokeswoman Kelly Moore issued a statement saying the senator was not aware of any relationship.
"The senator is very saddened by the loss of life and violence that has erupted in the Middle East. But as far as he is aware, he is not related to the man who was killed," the statement said.
The victim's father, Sidney Zvulun Lieberman, is a prominent rabbi in Brooklyn, New York. The Times quoted him as saying that his grandfather and the senator's grandfather were brothers.
The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations issued a statement in New York demanding that President Clinton hold Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat personally responsible for the killing.
Hillel Lieberman, a father of six, immigrated to Israel 14 years ago, the organization said. Lieberman lived in the Jewish West Bank settlement of Elon Moreh, near Nablus, and Israeli police said that for the past seven or eight years, he had been a Torah teacher at the Joseph's Tomb seminary, where about 30 students studied during the day.
The leader of the Joseph's Tomb seminary, Rabbi Yitzhak Ginsburg, has ruled that handing over territory to the Palestinians violates Jewish law.
Before dawn Saturday, Israeli troops withdrew from the heavily fortified enclave in hopes of reducing friction with the Palestinians. Palestinian police had assured Israel that they would guard the shrine. However, within hours of the Israeli withdrawal, dozens of Palestinians stormed the compound, set fire to the domed tomb, and tore up Jewish prayer books.
Police spokesman Rafi Yafe, citing residents of Elon Moreh, said that Lieberman, after learning of the evacuation of Joseph's Tomb, headed to the Nablus enclave. "Somewhere along the way, he was taken by Palestinians," Yafe said.
Lieberman was beaten and shot five times, Yafe said. An autopsy was being performed.
The website of the Israeli daily Haaretz said Lieberman had left Elon Moreh for Nablus at about 8 a.m. Saturday, after learning that the compound was being trashed by Palestinians.
The Conference of Presidents organizations said Lieberman was trying to save Torah scrolls at Joseph's Tomb.
"The scene of the attack on the tomb was reminiscent of Kristallnacht in 1938 and the destruction of all the Jewish synagogues and institutions in the Old City of Jerusalem in 1947," the organization said in a statement.
The Israeli army said Monday that all sacred articles, including the Torah scroll, had been removed from Joseph's Tomb as part of the Israeli withdrawal, although it acknowledged that some Jewish study books were left behind.
The tomb's holiness is disputed, as archaeologists say that the site is the burial place of a Muslim sheik, only a few centuries old; the connection of the site to Joseph is a relatively recent local Arab tradition also observed by some Jews.
Comment from Elon Moreh was not immediately available because of the Yom Kippur holiday that began at sundown Sunday and ends at nightfall Monday. During the fasting-and-prayer observance of the Day of Atonement, the holiest in the Jewish calendar, observant Jews do not answer telephones.