Why did terrorists kill my parents, asks orphaned Israeli boy

    (Five years after 26/11 attack)

    By Kavita Bajeli-Datt, IANS,

    New Delhi : “Eema (mother), Abba (father) bless me,” says Moshe Holtzberg every night to his parents, who look smilingly at him from a framed photograph. For the seven-year-old Jewish boy, the memories of the carnage in Mumbai five years ago may have slowly faded, but he has one persistent question – why did terrorists kill his parents?

    Although his maternal grandparents and his extended family members try to explain gently to him the reason why he was left orphaned in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack that shook India and the world, little Moshe still hunts for the answer he has not been able to find till now.

    Living with his maternal grandparents in Afula, about 140 km from Jerusalem in Israel, Moshe is growing into a self-assured person and is like any other seven-year-old boy.

    Moshe was just two when Pakistani terrorists laid siege to the five-storey Chabad House, also called Nariman House, during the 26/11 carnage. Little Moshe had a miraculous escape, thanks to his Indian nanny. Six Israelis, including Moshe’s parents – Jewish Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his pregnant wife Rivka – were killed by the terrorists in the attack.

    Speaking to IANS, Moshe’s maternal grandfather Shimon Rosenberg said the boy remembers his parents every day.

    “Sure, he remembers them (his parents),” Rosenberg told IANS in a telephonic interview from Afula. “He (Moshe) wishes them good morning when he gets up every day and good night when he retires for the day.”

    “Every night, when he sleeps he always asks his Abba and Eema to bless him. Every time, he asks us why his parents were killed by the terrorists,” he said.

    Asked how the boy is coping after the trauma he suffered at a very tender age, Rosenberg said: “He is fine. He is a good boy and very smart. He is happy now. He is studying in Class 2.”

    Rosenberg, who is in his early 60s, said his wife Yehudit takes care of the boy.

    “We are trying to do everything for him,” he added.

    Yehudit told IANS that she is happy that the boy is growing up into a “self-assured boy”.

    “It is good to see that he is happy. He is strong and self assured.”

    Rosenberg said the Indian nanny, Sandra Samuel, who saved the boy from the jaws of death, still visits them every weekend.

    “She has a strong connection with Moshe. She comes and lives with us during the weekends,” he added.

    Speaking to IANS, Samuel, in her 50s, said Moshe is a “very intelligent” boy.

    Samuel was working as a nanny for Moshe when the terrorists entered Chabad House, located near the southern tip of the city on the night of Nov 26 and laid a bloody siege that lasted till the afternoon of Nov 28. It was one of the last places to be freed of the terrorists. Ten Pakistani terrorists had laid siege to key institutions in India’s commercial capital and killed 166 people, including foreigners.

    Samuel risked her life by rescuing the toddler, who was sitting beside the blood-soaked bodies of his parents and crying. Samuel escaped the hostage scene before the terrorists could kill them.

    Since then she has not left Moshe.

    Samuel accompanied Moshe to Israel and was given citizenship. She has been traveling to India from time to time, but returns “home” to Moshe.

    Asked about her relationship with Moshe, Samuel said : “With me he is totally different. He is attached to me. We are very close.”

    Does he ask her about his parents or about what happened?

    “No, he has never asked me. But, yes, when he comes to know that someone has come from Mumbai, he bombards them with many questions. He knows his Eema and Abba lived there once,” Samuel said.

    Samuel said she still remembers that night of terror but has slowly stopped getting nightmares.

    “I got good psychological help. I was treated for some time. Now I am normal and I don’t get nightmares. I can sleep,” Samuel told IANS.

    “I think god gave me strength that night to go through it. He gave me strength to save the boy and to take care of him. I am happy I was able to save my little Moshe,” Samuel, who lives a few kilometres away from the Rosenberg family, told IANS over phone.

    Samuel said she will continue to take care of “little Moshe” till the time he needs her.

    “My home is India and I will return there one day. But for now, I am just taking care of little Moshe,” said Samuel, who belongs to Goa, and was married to a Keralite. Her two grown up children live in Mumbai.

    “I will be taking my annual holidays next month. I will go to Mumbai and stay there with my children for a few weeks. But I will come back to little Moshe,” she said.

    (Kavita Baajeli-Datt can be contacted at [email protected])