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'Rabbi Holtzberg has suffered a lot of hardship'
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November 28, 2008 18:10 IST

Solomon Sopher is another friend of Israeli hostages Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife Rivka. Mr Sopher is president of Mumbai's Baghdadi Jewish community and chairman/managing trustee of the Sir Jacob Sassoon Charity Trust, EEE Sassoon High School, Magen David Synagogue, Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue and the Ohel David Synagogue (Pune).

Also Read: 'Moshe was very thirsty and scared'

I have known Rabbi Holtzberg and his wife Rivka ever since they moved to Mumbai from Israel, four or five years ago. He is a very young, unassuming man, ever dedicated to helping people around him. He is non-interfering and never preaches religion, nor has he ever belittled any other religion. He is an official emmisary of the Jewish Chabad movement and his only aim has been to guide Jews Godward and inculcate spirituality -- he spends a lot of time praying.

Few know of the personal hardships he has suffered. Rabbi Holtzberg and Rivka's first-born child, a son, was born with a terminal blood condition that claimed his life. After that, their second son was also born with the same disease -- he cannot be more than 3-and-a-half years old and is currently in hospital back in Israel. They visited him only in September and when they came back they reported that all hope of his surviving is lost. I am only glad that the terrorists freed Moshe (the Holtzbergs's youngest son -- he was freed along with his nanny on Thursday).

I tried to get in touch with the rabbi as soon as I heard that terrorists had stormed the Chabad Centre, but I was unable to establish contact. What has happened is really shocking -- the Jewish community of India has never before seen anything of this kind. I don't know whether the terrorists are targetting Israelis in particular or all Jews -- all I can say is that we, over here, are Indians. I was born in India and my allegiance lies with India.

In this city, we live in harmony -- why, 98 percent of the children attending the school we run are Muslim. I would only ask of these people (the terrorists) to do unto us as we would do unto you. The innocent people you are targetting have done nothing to you. Americans, Britishers, Indians -- they have attacked civilians, these people have nothing to do with the government or politics, why punish them? It's very shameful.

Also see:
'We were told to lie flat on the floor and not make any sound'
'We didn't see the terrorists, but we felt their rage'
For relatives, the wait is unbearable

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