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'Moshe was very thirsty and scared'

Ronjita Kulkarni in Mumbai | November 28, 2008 18:00 IST

Moshe and his nanny were very, very afraid. She could not even talk," Mary Benjamin told

The little boy was held hostage by terrorists for almost 14 hours.

Moshe, 2, is the son of Israeli Rabbi Gavriel Holtsberg and his wife Rivka, who are still held hostage in Nariman House in south Mumbai, almost 44 hours after terrorists descended on the place and turned it into a war zone.

It is not known how Moshe and his nanny got out of Nariman House, but both of them arrived at the home of Rabbi Sharon Garsulkar of Mumbai's David Sassoon synagogue, at 11 am on Thursday. Gavriel and Sharon are close friends.

"I got a message from a relative that the boy and his nanny would come to my house," continued Mary Benjamin, Rabbi Garsulkar's mother. "Moshe was very thirsty and scared (when he came). We gave him water. He was also very hungry from the night before. I gave him some cheese that I had got from Israel 10 days ago. His parents don't give him any outside food (but only food from Israel)."

Moshe stayed in the Benjamin's home for about 20 minutes before he and his nanny were sent to the Colaba police station to give a statement. From there, they were taken to the Israeli consulate in Nariman Point. The boy's grandparents -- Rivki's parents -- have flown down to Mumbai from Israel to take charge of the little boy.

It remains a mystery why little-known Nariman House was selected as a target for the terrorists. Rabbi Garsulkar tries to find answers. "There are many reasons why the terrorists have chosen this place. It is a Jewish place. This is a well-planned operation, the building was marked. It was not an accidental site."

Nariman House or Chabad House is essentially a rest house for traveling Orthodox Jews.

"He (Rabbi Holtzberg) provided food services to orthodox Jewish, who were traveling in India. Orthodox Jews cannot eat in just any restaurant. They have only kosher food, and no place in Mumbai serves that, except Nariman House. He made rooms for them, made a synagogue and a library for them. It was like a palace for traveling Orthodox Jews. His wife would cook for the people," explains Rabbi Garsulkar, who has been standing outside Nariman House since the terrorists took over, going home only to sleep in the night.

The Holtzbergs have been living in Mumbai for the past three years, and had quite a hard life here.

"They always missed their community (back home) -- it was amazing that they chose to serve people in Mumbai. They had a hard life here," Rabbi Garsulkar said. "They were so passionate about their people here. An orthodox Jew cannot just walk into a restaurant and eat. These people made life easier for them.

"They were peace-loving, noble people. Rabbi Holtzberg was like a teacher to me. We would talk about Jewish subjects. He was very helpful, and was a religious guide to me," he said.

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