The violent world of Eli Hazeev stretched from the jungles of Vietnam to the motorcycle gangs of Washington to the West Bank of the Jordan River, and ended last week in a volley of Arab machine-gun fire in this ancient city of the patriarchs -- just as he told friends he wished it to end.
When he went to Vietnam, where he was badly wounded, he was James Eli Mahon Jr. When he was arrested in the shotgun slaying of a fellow member of a Washington motorcycle gang -- a charge that was later dropped -- he was known as "Crazy Jim."
When he arrived in Israel seven years ago, he called himself Eli Hazeev -- a combination of his own middle name and a common Hebrew surname meaning "The Wolf."
Hazeev was born a Christian but he embraced Judaism with a fervor rivaled only by his passion to be a fighting man.
He combined his two obsessions to create for himself a trouble odyssey that took him through the armies of two countries, half a dozen Israeli jails, the shrill life of an extreme ultranationalist and finally to a grave in the old Jewish cemetery in this tense Arab city.
Pasted to the door of Hazeev's walkup apartment in Kiryat Arba, the controversial Jewish settlement near Hebron, are two brightly colored signs, one an Army-issue placard warning "frontier Ahead," the other bearing the slogan of the extremist Jewish Defense League: "Never Again!"
The signs are a microcosm of Hazeev's life from his birth 32 years ago in New York until his death in a narrow Hebron street Friday, one of six Jewish victims of the worst Arab attack on Jews since Israel occupied the West Bank of the Jordan River in 1967.
In his turbulent life, Hazeev was a sniper in the U.S. and Israeli armies, was arrested in connection with a shadowy plot to assassinate a Palestine Liberation Organization official abroad, serving eight months in jail for terrorizing Arabs and, more recently, was the object of a vast air search while hiking in the Judean desert with two women.
He became something of a celebrity to israelis for extremist adventures that often put his name in the newspapers. He was admired by mystics who believe that Jews have a right to all the land that in biblical times was Palestine, including the present West Bank.
In Vietnam, Hezeev boasted he was "the point man on the squads which went into undergrounds tunnels, looking for the Viet Cong," said one former Virginia neighbor. "He said he liked going one-on-one with Charlie [Viet Cong soldiers].
"He liked to go to war. The idea of violence and weapons appealed to him. One day in his back year he suddenly started spraying the leaves, as if he had a machine gun in his hands. Once he got to a war I don't think it mattered who was on the other side," the Virginia neighbor said.
He was wounded four times, but "every time he got shot he volunteered to go back," another neighbor said.
"The Vietnam war affected him. It gave him a feeling that his place in life was to be a soldier and a fighter. He was always the fighter," said Jehoshua Adler, Hazeev's roommate at Kiryat Arba.
For Hazeev, the fighting spirit came early, on U.S. military bases where his father, retired Air Force Col. James E. Mahon, Served. Mahon, who now lives in Alexandria, came here for the burial of his son, but went into seclusion here today and could not be reached.
The family lived in a modest house at 496 W. Taylor Run Parkway, in the Clover section of Alexandria. Most of the original residents of the 22-year-old subdivision are retired military officers. Hazeev's mother, known to her friends as Sunny, was described by acquaintances today as "intensely religious and politically conservative."
His father is a "quiet man who liked to hunt and fish, and kept an extensive gun collection in the living room. On one wall were stuffed heads of animals he had shot in Germany, during a previous tour of duty," one Alexandria neighbor said.
Hazeev, born Oct. 19, 1947, was a slender, straw-haired youth remembered as liking guns and motorcycles. An Alexandria neighbor, Jim Stattler, recalls him has having both feet on the ground. "If it hadn't been for Vietnam he would have been an interlectual."
Other neighbors recall him as "moody . . . after the war he would be quiet while you talked, then all of a sudden take off on a tangent. He believed he was fighting for freedom. He wanted to kill all the Communists he could," one woman said.
He attended the now-defunct Edwards Military Institute, in Salemburg, N.C., before enrolling for one summer school semester at The John Hopkins University, in Baltimore, in 1968, the university records show.
His stated field was premed, but he dropped out before completing the course, a school source said.
After Vietnam, Hazeev -- then still Mahon -- was arrested on Jan. 16, 1970, for allegedly shotgunning to death in self-defense a fellow member of the Vipers motorcycle gang, District of Columbia police reported.
The incident occurred at a "crash pad" at 1801 Newton St. NW. His nickname in the gang was "Crazy Jim."
Mahon was first charged with second degree murder, but the charge was apparently reduced to possession of a prohibited weapon, and then dropped, on Dec. 15, 1970, according to court records.
Vietnam had done something to Hazeev, friends here and in Virginia said. He served two tours with a sniper unit of the 101st Airborne Division and sustained serious wounds. A thumb was blown off. He had scars from napalm burns and a wound from a bullet that punctured his lung and nearly killed him. His teeth were shattered by a grenade.
He felt discouraged by the war itself, his roommates said, "He believed the comunists should be stopped, but felt this was the wrong place. He felt he was fighting for a good cause, but under the wrong circumstances," said another roommate, Baruch Adler, Jehoshua's brother.
Hazeev's religion was deeply felt, according to his friends, and its roots seemed to lie in his frustrations from the war.
"He felt he had to find some true ideals. He said he was always interested in Jewish history in our wars, the terrorism. He was overcome emotionally by the 1973 Yom Kippur War, and the fighting instinct came out again," Jehoshua Adler said.
In early 1974, Hazeev obtained a U.S. passport under his new Hebrew name, came to Israel and converted to Judaism, almost immediately attempting to join the Israeli army.
Hundreds of American veterans have done the same thing when war has threatened Israel, but virtually all of them have been Jewish and their identity with the struggling Jewish homeland has been lifelong. But Hazeev could scarely have been distinguished from the rest.
A friend from Hazeev's days in an intensive Hebrew language course recalled, "He was a fierce Jewish fighter, with the oldtime vision of what it's like to be Jewish. He was fearless and fierce looking."
Because of his war injuries, the Israeli Army at first rejected Hazeev, but he persisted and served in an infantry brigade. He was in the March 1978 Israeli invasion of southern Lebanon.
After his discharge, and a broken marriage to an Israeli, things began to sour for Hazeev.
A year ago, he was arrested in Tel Avi's Ben-Gurion Airport and accused of planning a trip to the United States to assassinate a PLO official who was touring college campuses. In Hazeev's luggage was a disguise, including an Arab headdress, his roommates said Hezeev told them.
"He was on his way to do it. He was going to get the weapon in the States, and I personally think it would have been a great thing," said Jehoshua Adler, who is 21 and an avowed zealot. Like Hazeev, the Adler brothers are former Americans and followers of Rabbi Meir Kahane's extremist Jewish Defense League. released without trial and he moved to kiryat Arba, whose 4,000 residents include many members of the ultranationalist settlement movement, the Gush Emunim.
But his friends say Hazeev was never satisfied by the Jewish Defense League or Gush Emunim. "He was a freelancer. He was active in all those groups, but felt none were radical enough," said Jehoshua Adler.
Last year, a group of armed vigilantes broke into several Arab homes in Hebron and beat up the residents, and again Hazeev was arrested. This time he was convicted and served eight months in jail.
"His ideals came before anything -- even the law," Jehoshua Adler added.
Earlier this year, Hazeev was arrested in connection with a window-smashing spree in Halhoul in the West Bank. Last month, he and two women were reported lost in the desert, but when an air search found them, Hazeev said he was not in danger and he offered to reenlist in the army at half-pay to cover the expense of the search.
Last Friday, Hazeev began his day as usual with 5 a.m. prayers. That evening he walked with a group of Jewish settlers to the tomb of the Patriarchs. From there, they walked to the former Jewish Hadassah clinic to visit settlers who have been conducting a sit-in for a year.
As they approached the Hadassah building, they were caught in a crossfire from Arab gunmen, and grenades exploded. Friends say Hezeev frantically tried to unsling his M16 rifle, and lunged toward one of the gunmen before falling in a pool of blood.
Eli Hazeev wanted to die fighting, his friends said.
"He said it would be a disgrace to die of cancer, and that he wanted to die with his gun blazing. He couldn't get the gun ready, but he died fighting," said Jehoshua Adler.