Orphaned in 26/11 terror attacks, Moshe visits Mumbai after a decade
Mumbai: Almost a decade after he narrowly survived the November 26, 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, the orphaned Moshe Holtzberg arrived in Mumbai on a cool Tuesday morning on his first visit to India.
Then a toddler on the verge of turning two and now an 11-year-old, the bespectacled Moshe, sporting a T-shirt and shorts, landed at Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (CSIA) along with his grandparents, with whom he grew up in Israel.
Appearing a tad bewildered by the presence of a large media posse outside the CSIA, he kept close to his grandmother, with his grandfather following nearby.
Accompanying them was his savior and Indian nanny, Sandra Samuel, who has lived with and looked after him in Israel since the harrowing experiences of 26/11 in the Chabad House, which is inside Nariman House in Colaba, in the southern tip of Mumbai.
At the media’s insistence, Moshe managed to say: “Shalom… Bahut khush” (Greetings, I feel very happy)”, as they stepped out around 8 a.m.
He religiously sported a small brimless cloth cap, called ‘kippah’ – which he kept on all through the day in Mumbai.
“I want to pray in Nariman House, where Moshe’s parents were killed… Moshe likes the people of India and loves the country. He wants to thank Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” said the boy’s grandfather, Shimon Rosenberg, sporting a snowwhite beard.
Later, in the afternoon, the entire family, including Samuel, visited the Chabad House, in Nariman House, Colaba, which was under siege by two Pakistani terrorists who gunned down seven persons there, including Moshe’s young parents.
They were warmly received there by the present Rabbi, Israel Kozlovsky, who also heads the Chabad Trust in India, along with his toddler child and other officials.
Moshe and his grandparents offered a brief but solemn prayer at the small synagogue here, visited the library and various other rooms, including the one in which his parents were felled by the terrorists bullets during the November 26-29 strikes.
Samuel took them around the room where Moshe’s parents were killed, and recounted the chilling events of that day to him and his grandparents, against the backdrop of the bullet-ridden walls, damaged plaster and floor, some tell-tale reddish-brown stains (probably blood) of the dance of death in the building exactly nine years and three months ago.
At one point, Rabbi Kozlovsky, his wife and Samuel posed before a large portrait of Moshe’s parents which hangs in one of the corridors of Chabad House, most of which has undergone a renovation.
Along with visiting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Moshe is likely to visit the Chabad House on Thursday, to declare it as a Living Memorial.
Arriving in Mumbai in 2003, (Moshe’s parents) the Holtzbergs ran the Chabad-Lubavitch Jewish outreach centre serving the tiny local Jewish community and visiting Israelis in the city, which was shut down after the terror strikes and reopened only in 2014.
When they were killed in the indiscriminate firing, the US-born Rabbi Gavriel was 29 and his Israel-born wife Rivka was 28.
Unknown to them, their toddler son Moshe, then barely two, was protected and saved by his Indian nanny, Samuel, and later they were taken to Israel.
As a gesture of goodwill for saving little Moshe’s life, Samuel was later granted an honorary citizenship of Israel and continues to live and work there.