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One of the most touching incidences from the Mumbai attacks is that of the Israeli boy saved by his Indian nanny Sandra Samuel as gunmen killed both his parents. He is now ready to revisit the site of the attack with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. BBC Hindi’s Zubair Ahmed met his family in Israel when the Jewish cultural center was stormed by Pakistani militants.
The little, 11-year-old Moshe Holtzberg take a look at the picture of his smiling parents hanged above his bed every night before he goes to bed and wishes they were still with him. Gabi and Rivka Holtzberg were killed in Chabad House, a Jewish cultural center in the western Indian city of Mumbai, during a deadly attack in 2008 by the Pakistan militants, while Moshe was barely two years old at the time of the incidence.
He now lives in the Israel city of Afula with his adoptive grandparents. But presently they are in India as part of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s delegation. He misses his parents, says his grandfather, Rabbi Rosenberg. He has a very bitter experience because he knows how his parent died. The safety and comfort that surrounds Moshe at his grandparents’ home are in opposes the attack that orphaned him nearly 10 years ago.
Rabbi Rosenberg said on his arrival at my house he is mentally imbalanced, suffer several nightmares, sleepless nights and would cry all day and night asking ‘where is my papa, where is my mama. “Initially, he will not want to come to me or ask any question from me, probably because I wore black clothes and the terrorists had a black mask.”
The 60-hour siege of India’s financial capital was one of the worst terror attacks on Indian soil killed over 166 persons, including nine gunmen. Mohammad Ajmal Amir Qasab, the sole surviving gunman, was arrested and tried, before being executed in 2012. India blamed Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba for the attacks. The gunmen carried out a different attacks attempts across Mumbai focusing about seven different locations, including two luxury hotels, the main railway station, and the Jewish center which is the habitat of the Holtzbergs.
The BBC was unable to meet Moshe because Mr. Rosenberg says the psychologist has advised that he be shielded from the media. But he spoke at length about his grandson, whom he affectionately calls “Moshe boy”.”Moshe boy has been asking about the Chabad House and about India,” Mr. Rosenberg says. “He is quite excited.” Moshe, along with his grandparents and Ms. Samuel are part of the delegation of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who is on an official four-day visit.
Moshe’s visit to India will be an emotional journey since this will be his first time in India since the attack, Mr. Rosenberg says. Moshe was invited by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi after he had met the boy during his visit to Israel in July. Moshe is expected to spend time with Mr. Netanyahu at the center where his parents were killed.
“Moshe boy will take the prime minister to his room,” said Mr. Rosenberg. In Moshe’s room in Afula, there are two globes on his study table. “Moshe boy is a keen student of geography and mathematics,” Mr. Rosenberg says with pride. Though it took me some time before I could gain his full attention due to the bad experience he had, Nevertheless, I did not give. I bought two bicycles, one for Moshe and one for me, and the two of us would go cycling together. Said Mr. Rosenberg, Gradually, we built a relationship. I took him to places he would be interested in. I felt I had become young again.
Ms. Samuel has been of great assistant too. The Rosenbergs helped her get Israeli citizenship and she now lives in Jerusalem, a two-hour drive from Afula. She works elsewhere but spends weekends with Moshe and his family. “She is one of the family,” Mr. Rosenberg says. If she did not arrive early Moshe boy will become so anxious. He picks up the phone and calls her to ask why she is late.”
Moshe, according to his grandfather, wants to be a rabbi like his father, Gabi. His parents had relocated to Mumbai seven years before the incident to work at Chabad House. Their life in Mumbai had revolved around Jewish people visiting the city and other parts of India. Moshe is likely to follow in their footsteps.
“He is too little now. But when he is older he might like to go to Mumbai and work at the Chabad House,” says Mr. Rosenberg, who is already preparing Moshe for that particular task.
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