Western countries awoke today to news of a widespread attack on the city of Mumbai, India, that occurred Wednesday night and continued through Thursday, killing 101 people and wounding hundreds more. Ten sites were targeted, including hotels, railway stations, and a local Jewish Chabad center. Israel's Foreign Ministry has announced that 10 to 15 Israeli nationals are being held hostage throughout the city.
Photo sourced from ScriptingNews (Creative Commons License)
Chabad reports that among the known hostages are Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg:
“Terrorists attacked multiple locations in Mumbai, India, late Wednesday night, with much of the gunfire occurring near the Chabad-Lubavitch center run by Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg… The Israeli Consulate was in touch with Holtzberg, but the line was cut in middle of the conversation. No further contact has since been established. Other reports on IBN showed the Chabad House’s building as being occupied by terrorists, but no further information could be confirmed.”
A Chabad update on the six hostages being held within the center stated:
“Three people, including the toddler son of Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg, walked out of Nariman House, home to Mumbai’s Chabad-Lubavitch center. The fate of the parents is unknown, but it is believed they are still inside.”
Rivka Holtzberg's mother described the couple's work, saying:
“They were busy hosting, feeding, listening to Israelis who are there. A warm corner of the Land of Israel.”
India is a popular travel destination for young Israelis after their army service. Houses like this Chabad center serve as an oasis of familiarity where Israelis can feel at home in a foreign land.
The Jews of Mumbai–
But there are many Jews who call India home, over a quarter of whom reside in Mumbai. The Jewish community, known as Bene Israel (or Children of Israel), has lived in Mumbai for 2,000 years and life has been good to them there, moreso than almost anywhere else in the world.
Photo sourced from Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons License)
Israel's Blogosphere Reacts–
Many Israeli bloggers are following the events in Mumbai with an all too familiar apprehension. The Muqata, Israellycool, Mystical Paths, and Yeshiva World News are among the sites posting regular updates of the hostage situation.
With the most detailed information of the group, Yeshiva World News posts:
“Israel Radio reported earlier that it will be sometime until the events are studied, but it does indeed appear that the terrorists knew very well that they were targeting the Chabad House, directing their multi-pronged killing spree [as] Jews/Israelis are well.
In the meantime, an El Al flight is scheduled to leave Mumbai at 20:00 Israel time (23:00 Mumbai) time Thursday night, expected to land in Israel during the early predawn hours. The aircraft has space to accommodate 300 passengers.”
In addition to facilitating the return of Israelis, the Foreign Ministry has also announced that it will likely send expert medical professionals to aid with the aftermath of the attacks and possibly a team to support Indian security forces.
Alex Stein of False Dichotomies, a political commentator and recent visitor to India, writes:
“Terrorism – in its rational form – is successful only if it can impact on the civilian population, to change their behavior enough in order to draw concessions from the government. In a country the size of India this is a near-impossibility… India is now arguably the country with the greatest terrorist problem of them all. Even worse, the terrorism is increasingly adopting chaotic forms, forms which in many ways reflect life on the subcontinent, but seem impervious to attempts at prevention.”
Relating to Indian terrorism is an easy empathy for many Israelis. In an entry entitled “Grieving with the People of Mumbai, India,” Yael of Aliyah! Step-by-Step laments:
“It is simply horrifying. We have words like evil and depraved but we really don’t have a vocabulary to describe the depths of depravity for acts like this where just soulless terrorists seek to kill as many innocent civilians as they can. We, who have experienced so many suicide bombings and terrorist attacks against our civilians, grieve with the family and friends of the victims. We grieve with the people of India and share your horror at these heinous acts. My heart is with the people of Mumbai tonight.”
While we wait for word that all those in danger have been brought to safety, Israeli inboxes are filled with prayer requests for the victims. “Pray for Gavriel Noach ben Freida Bluma, Rivka bas Yehudis, and all others affected by the tragedy,” they say. No matter how or to whom you pray, positive thoughts sent to those in need will be appreciated.