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'The congregation dissolved in tears at Moshe's grief'

Sanaya Dalal in Mumbai | December 01, 2008

Moshe HoltzbergThe Jewish community of Mumbai is still reeling from the mindless massacre that rocked Mumbai, given that Israelis visiting the city were premeditated targets.

In an attack at Nariman House, terrorists took hostage and eventually killed the official emmisary of the Jewish Chabad-Lubavitch movement, Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife Rivka; the couple ran a Jewish community centre in the building, offering free accomodation, kosher meals and holding prayer classes.

rediff.com spoke once again to Solomon Sopher, president of Mumbai's Baghdadi Jewish community and a personal friend of the Holtzbergs.

The deaths of Rabbi  and Rivka are a big loss to all of us -- we were hoping against hope that they would be saved, but that was not to be.

As soon as the terrorists' stand-off with police ended (on November 28), representatives of ZAKA, Israel's emergency medical services unit, who flew down especially to help with rescue efforts, entered the building to retrieve the bodies.

You see, in the Jewish community, it is important that the bodies of the dead be preserved as wholly as possible for the funeral. In cases where people have been victims of terror attacks or accidents, the body is often dismembered or badly disfigured. ZAKA volunteers gather up these corpses, collecting body parts, blood and flesh -- it is particularly important that all the bones be brought together.

The bodies of Gavriel and Rivka have now been embalmed and prepared to leave for Israel this (Monday) evening -- that is where their burials will be held tomorrow and prayers will be offered after. But we held a condolence meeting at the Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue this morning, to honour their memory. It was attended by their two-year-old son Moshe, Rivka's parents Shimon and Yehudit Rosenberg, Israeli Ambassador Mark Sofer, Israeli Consul General Orna Sagiv and American Consul General Paul Folmsbee, among others.

While the Israeli ambassador was giving a speech, Moshe started crying for his mother, saying all the time, "Heva, heva!", meaning 'mother'. The whole congregation dissolved in tears at the child's grief -- the rabbi, the ambassador, everyone. And these tears will flow to the almighty God, who will take action, even if man does not.

The Jewish community is thinking hard to find ways and means of securing our synagogues and institutions -- as you know, the best of security has not proved enough to contain these murderers. We all strongly believe that we have no reason to be targetted and we stand by our principles of non-violence. India has never shown any sign of anti-Semitism and while this is a period where everyone is shaken and feeling insecure, it will, with the grace of God, pass.

Image: Moshe Holtzberg at the condolence meet. Photograph: Lorenzo Tugnoli/AFP/Getty Images

Also see:

'Moshe was very thirsty and scared'
'Rabbi Holtzberg has suffered a lot of hardship'

Inside Nariman House
Then the tears came raining down

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