Jerusalem: Moshe Holtzberg, the Israeli boy who was just two years old when he lost his parents in the 2008 Mumbai terror attack, is touched by the heartwarming message sent by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in which he described the teenager’s story as a “miracle” which continues to inspire everyone. The letter was sent by the prime minister on Moshe’s Bar Mitzvah, a ceremony performed for Jewish boys at the age of 13.
Some Israeli scholars compare Bar Mitzvah with upnayana, or the thread ceremony. Moshe turned 13 as per the Gregorian calendar on 28 November. “Moshe was very touched by the letter from (prime minister) Modi. The fact that the leader of a country so big as India sends a heartwarming letter like this, has given a lot of strength to Moshe. He was very happy to see the Indian Ambassador coming with his whole team of diplomats for the event,” the now thirteen year old boy’s grandfather, Rabbi Shimon Rosenberg, told PTI.
In one of the deadliest terror attacks in India’s history, 166 people were killed and over 300 injured when 10 heavily-armed Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists from Pakistan created mayhem in Mumbai on 28 November, 2008. The terrorists also targeted the Nariman House (also known as Chabad House) where six Jews, including Moshe’s parents Rabbi Gabriel and Rivka Holtzberg, were killed.
They were Chabad emissaries to Mumbai at that time. “He (Moshe) was specially touched by the words Modi wrote that he is waiting for him to grow and come to Mumbai as the emissary of Chabad. This is something that has given him a lot of energy and strength. This is not coming just from the Jews, but from the Prime Minister of India himself. He also recalled the warm emotional hug that he got from Prime Minister Modi when they met,” Rosenberg added. In a moving message, Modi congratulated Moshe by describing his story as a “miracle” which continues to “inspire” everyone.
During the Mumbai attack, Moshe, standing and crying between his dead parents’ bodies, was saved in a daring move by his brave nanny, Sandra Samuels, who was hiding in a room downstairs when the attack happened. Pictures of Sandra holding the little boy close to her chest after escaping from the place touched the hearts of millions of people all over the world.
“As you make this important transition and cross a significant landmark in the journey of your life, the courage of [nanny] Sandra [Samuel] and prayers of the people of India will continue to bless you for a long, healthy and successful life,” Modi wrote in a letter sent to Moshe, who celebrated his Bar Mitzvah last Sunday. “Your story continues to inspire everyone. It is one of miracle and hope overcoming tragedy and immeasurable loss,” Modi stressed in his message. Modi, whose message was read out at the celebrations by Sanjeev Singla, India’s Ambassador to Israel, said that the perpetrators of the “cowardly terrorist attack” in Mumbai “clearly failed” in their intent.
“They could not subdue our vibrant diversity. Nor could they dampen our spirit to march forward. Today, India and Israel stand together even more determined against terrorism and hatred,” Modi wrote. The prime minister also mentioned about his meeting with Moshe during his trip to Israel in July 2017 and expressed hope that his wish to return to Mumbai as Director of the Chabad House “comes true.” In an emotional meeting with Modi on 5 July, 2017 in Jerusalem, the young boy expressed his wish to be able to visit Mumbai. “I hope I will be able to visit Mumbai, and when I get older, live there. I will be the director of our Chabad House…I love you and your people in India,” Moshe told the prime minister who embraced the young boy on seeing him.
Modi had responded by saying, “Come and stay in India and Mumbai. You are most welcome. You and your all family members will get long-term visas. So you can come anytime and go anywhere”. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had then promptly asked Moshe to join him when he travels to India, a promise he did not forget and the family accompanied him during his trip to India in 2018. India issued 10-year multiple entry visas to Moshe and his grandparents to ease their travel to the country in August 2017. Modi is said to have personally followed up on the matter as promised to Moshe during their meeting.