ON THE second day of his visit to Mumbai, the 2008 terror attack survivor, Moshe Holtzberg, visited the Chabad House in Colaba once again to offer prayers at the synagogue. The second day in Mumbai was by and large peaceful for the 11-year-old, family members said, as he managed to take a tour of the city away from media glare.
“After he offered prayers, he went to the Israeli Consulate. On his way, he stopped by at the Dhobi Ghat in Mahalaxmi,” said Oren Rosenfeld, a documentary filmmaker who is capturing Moshe on his visit to India for his upcoming film on Mumbai’s Jews. This is Moshe’s first visit to India after his parents, Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg, died along with four visitors inside the Nariman House in 2008 when two militants laid siege to the Jewish community centre.
On Wednesday, Moshe was accompanied by his grandparents and Indian nanny Sandra Samuel as he visited the Lower Parel office of the Israeli consul general. The group was keen on visiting the Dhobi Ghat in Mahalaxmi where they dropped by in the afternoon. “As they are tourists, they were curious to see that place. They had heard about Dhobi Ghat and several foreigners visit it,” said Martin Samuel, Sandra’s son.
During the 26/11 attacks, Sandra was hiding on the first floor of the Nariman House soon after the terrorists barged in when she heard baby Moshe’s cries. In a heroic effort, she rushed into the room, picked up the two-year-old as he stood between his parents’ dead bodies, and escaped. After the attacks, Sandra was offered honorary citizenship and she moved to Israel with Moshe to look after him. Her family said she had visited India a few times since then. “But this is their first visit to Nariman House,” Martin said.
According to Moshe’s uncle, also named Moshe Holtzberg, the main reason for the visit was to let the young boy see where he spent the first two years of his life. “If there is time, he will visit places of tourist interest. But he wanted to see the home where his parents died,” he said. Moshe’s grandparents initially planned to schedule his travel to India for a Bar Mitzvah ceremony when he turned 13. In July 2017, he had expressed his wish to visit India during PM Narendra Modi’s visit to Israel. Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu had immediately suggested that Moshe accompany him on his India tour.
On Thursday, Netanyahu and Moshe will officially announce the conversion of Nariman House, an outreach centre for the Chabad-Labuvitch movement in Mumbai, into a “Living Memorial” to the terror victims. Moshe, according to grandfather Nachman Holtzberg, has prepared a few lines for the event scheduled in the afternoon. The family will leave for Israel on Friday morning.