Nine years after two-year-old Moshe Holtzberg left Chabad House in Mumbai, after his parents were killed in the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, he is likely to visit the city mid-January, during Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to India. In a balancing act, South Block is working towards scheduling Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s trip to Palestine in February — within a month of Netanyahu’s visit.
Modi had met Moshe in Jerusalem in July this year, when he visited Israel. The 11-year-old boy, in an emotional meeting with Modi at the historic King David Hotel, had said, “I want to ask you something from all of us: Please continue to love me forever. Thank you. And always remember my parents. I live in Afula, but I remember our connection to Nariman House… I hope I will be able to visit Mumbai and when I get older, I live there.”
Following that conversation, the Indian embassy in Tel Aviv, in August, issued 10-year multiple entry visas to the young Israeli survivor of the Mumbai terror attacks, Moshe, and his grandparents. Sources told The Indian Express that his trip to India would be one of the highlights of Netanyahu’s visit. Moshe was just two when his parents, Rivka and Gavriel Holtzberg, serving as emissaries of Chabad in Mumbai, were killed along with six others by terrorists at the Nariman House, also known as Chabad House.
He now lives with his grandparents — Rabbi Shimon Rosenberg and his wife Yehudit Rosenberg — in Israel, and attends a yeshiva (religious school). He is still very attached to his Indian nanny, Sandra, who works in Jerusalem and joins the family over the weekends.
Besides Delhi, Netanyahu, who will be accompanied by his wife, will visit Agra to see the Taj Mahal, and will also go to Ahmedabad, Mumbai. Modi is likely to accompany him for the Ahmedabad-Mumbai leg of the visit.
“The two leaders will be carrying forward the relationship from Modi’s July visit, and will take it to the next level,” said a source. Netanyahu is expected to meet business leaders as well those from the Indian film industry, as Israel is trying to get Bollywood to shoot at some of the locations there. He is also likely to address the Raisina Dialogue, a conference organised by the Ministry of External Affairs and Observer Research Foundation on January 16.
While India will put cooperation on defence and security in top gear with Israel, South Block is working towards scheduling Modi’s trip to Palestine. Sources said his visit to Palestine is likely to be clubbed with his visit to the United Arab Emirates in February.
Modi is expected to lead the Indian delegation to the World Government Summit from February 11 to 13, hosted by the UAE, where India has been invited as the guest country, a source said. This will be his second visit to the UAE, which has emerged as a key strategic partner of India. Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, crown prince of Abu Dhabi and deputy supreme commander of the UAE armed forces, visited India twice — once in February 2016 and then as chief guest at the Republic Day celebrations this year.
South Block is learnt to be working with Palestinian officials to schedule a visit by Modi to Ramallah — before or after his UAE visit. This will be a reciprocal visit by Modi, after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas visited India in May this year. Sources pointed out that both Netanyahu’s visit to India as well as Modi’s trip to Palestine will be “standalone visits”. “Just like PM skipped Palestine, while visiting Israel… he will be visiting Palestine only, and not Israel… the idea is to complete the de-hyphenation,” said the source.
The visit will take place in the backdrop of India’s vote at the UN against the US move to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The Arab envoys lobbied hard with New Delhi to vote against the US move, and the BJP-led NDA government played along, voting in line with its principled stand, as followed by previous governments in Delhi in the last seven decades, including the UPA government. This came as a surprise to many, since the incumbent Modi government was perceived to have reached out to Israel in a much more proactive manner than the previous governments.