By Harinder Mishra
Beersheva (Israel), Nov 17 (PTI) In a sombre ceremony on Tuesday, the Chabad House in this southern Israeli city paid respects to the victims of 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, expressing outrage at the "senseless murders and killings" and emphasising on the "shared pains" with India.
The 12th anniversary of the Mumbai terror attacks, as per the Jewish calendar, fell on Tuesday.
"Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg, the Chabad emissaries who were killed in the dastardly attacks in Mumbai are remembered every year by the whole movement as our representatives in almost 4,000 centres across the world meet at this time," Rabbi Zalman Gorlik, the head of the Chabad House in Beersheva city, told PTI.
"This year we had a virtual meeting due to coronavirus restrictions and we took a pause to pay our respects to the victims of the attack in Mumbai," he said.
The Mumbai Chabad House, a Jewish outreach centre, at Nariman Point was one of the targets of the 2008 Mumbai attacks during which 10 terrorists of Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) carried out 12 coordinated shooting and bombing attacks lasting four days across Mumbai. At least 166 people, including six Jews at the Chabad House and nine terrorists, were killed and over 300 others were injured in the attacks.
"It was such a shock to hear the news of the attack 12 years ago. I remember that we had gathered that year in New York when I heard about it. We could not believe the kind of hatred demonstrated in those indiscriminate firings on innocent people," Gorlik said.
Rabbi Meir Simha Kresevitski referred to the "shared pain" felt by Israelis and Indians.
"Our scriptures say that the word 'Hodu' (Hebrew word for India) comes from Hodaya, which means thanks and gratefulness, and we genuinely feel thankful to have friends like you all. We share this pain and it strengthens our resolve to stay together," he said.
The emissary of the English speaking Chabad members, Rabbi Itzhak Haim Sebag, representing the family of the victims, said the movement aims to "bring home away from home for the Jews, a home where they feel comfortable, and would continue to do so undeterred by senseless murders and killings".
The Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) at the Indian embassy, Anitha Nandhini, represented the Ambassador, who is currently under quarantine, at the ceremony and thanked Israelis for standing with India in the fight against terror.
"The perpetrators of the attack chose to attack the symbols which represent the Indian democracy, pluralism and open society...but they failed to achieve their nefarious objective of breaking the spirit of India," Nandhini said.
"India has been relentlessly raising its voice against terrorism in all its form, including cross-border terrorism, in order to bring justice to the victims and their families. We thank Israel for standing with India in this endeavour," she said.
Moshe Holtzberg, now 14 years old, was a two-year-old toddler when his parents, Gavriel and Rivka, were killed in the Mumbai attacks at Nariman House (also known as Chabad House) by the Pakistani terrorists.
The boy, standing and crying between his dead parents' bodies, was saved in a daring move by his brave nanny, Sandra Samuels, who was hiding in a room downstairs when the attack happened.
Pictures of Sandra holding the little boy close to her chest after escaping from the place touched the hearts of millions of people all over the world.
Holtzberg's family today paid respects to their dear ones in a cemetery in Jerusalem where they are buried.
A museum in the name of Rabbi Gavriel and his wife Rivka has been built in the northern town of Afula, Moshe's grandfather Rabbi Shimon Rosenberg told PTI.
In an emotional meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on July 5, 2017 in Jerusalem, Moshe had expressed his wish to be able to visit Mumbai.
“I hope I will be able to visit Mumbai, and when I get older, live there. I will be the director of our Chabad House,” Moshe had told the Prime Minister who embraced the young boy on seeing him.
“With God’s help, this is my answer,” the boy had said reading from a prepared script concluding, “I love you and your people in India."
Modi had responded by saying, "Come and stay in India and Mumbai. You are most welcome. You and your all family members will get long-term visas. So you can come anytime and go anywhere."
Netanyahu had then promptly asked Moshe to join him when he travels to India, a promise he did not forget and the family accompanied him during his trip to India in January 2018.
India issued 10-year multiple entry visas to Moshe and his grandparents to ease their travel to the country in August 2017. Prime Minister Modi is said to have personally followed up on the matter as promised to Moshe during their meeting.
Modi also sent his best wishes to the boy last year when he celebrated his bar mitzvah, a ceremony performed for Jewish boys at the age of 13. PTI HM SCY SCY