Ahead of Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s four-day visit to India, the iconic Chabad House is already undergoing renovation. The Israeli PM and wife Sara, along with an entourage including 2008 terror attack survivor Moshe Holtzberg, his nanny Sandra Samuel and both maternal and paternal grandparents are expected to visit the Chabad House, also referred as Nariman House, in a heavily guarded private event on January 18.
An announcement of a museum on two floors of the Chabad house, that was being planned for a long time, may be made during the PM’s visit. The year 2018, also coincides with the tenth anniversary of 2008 Mumbai terror attacks that killed six in Chabad House, including Moshe’s parents Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg.
“Moshe wants to first see the Nariman House and then the Gateway of India. It has been nine years and he has forgotten most of Mumbai. He is no more a baby, we call him a big boy now. He is excited about this visit,” Moshe’s grandfather Rabbi Shimon Rosenberg told The Indian Express over the phone from Afula in Israel.
Moshe’s family will be reaching Mumbai on January 16 for a three-day visit. Along with Netanyahu, the family will be staying at The Taj Mahal hotel, Colaba. “The PM’s delegation and Moshe’s family will pay tribute to victims of Nariman house. Moshe’s parents were murdered in the same house and the visit is scheduled under tight security,” said Yaakov Finkelstein, Israel’s consul general in Mumbai.
A quick online search still shows Moshe, now 11, as the owner of the five storey fortified building. The Holtzbergs purchased the property in 2006 which served as a synagogue, an educational center and a hostel before the attack. Currently, the first and second floor serve as a synagogue and the third floor is used for community events.
Prior to 2008, the Holtzbergs provided hostel facility to Israeli travellers but now the facility is officially unavailable.
“This will be the first visit of Moshe and Sandra to Nariman House after 2008. After 2008, Sandra only visited her family but not Nariman House,” said Rabbi Israel Kozlovsky, who runs the Chabad Center, adding that renovations in the building are underway ahead of next week’s event. Indian nanny Sandra, who had rescued Moshe during the terror attacks, worked there for five years until 2008.
Walls riddled with bullet holes have been preserved after the 26/11attack. Work on a museum, initially planned to cover two floors of the building in honour of the late Rabbi and his wife is yet to begin.
Meanwhile, the Jewish community members have requested the Israel ambassador and Consul General to schedule a community interaction with Netanyahu. “This is the first visit of Israel prime minister and we would like a chance to share our issues and views with him. We have requested for his visit to the synagogue in Kala Ghoda but there is no official communication from them yet,” said Solomon Sopher, chairman of Jacob Sassoon Trust that runs three synagogues in Mumbai and Pune apart from one cemetery each in the two cities.
In his visit to Israel in July 2017, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had met Moshe, who converses mostly in Hebrew. Moshe had then expressed a wish to visit India. His visit next week is to show him the place of his birth.