Parents of Chabad emissary hold onto hope as they leave Afula for Mumbai
The parents of Rivki Holtzberg, who was held hostage at Mumbai's Chabad Jewish Center along with her husband, Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg, and several others, left their Afula home for India yesterday afternoon.
Rabbi Shimon and Yehudit Rosenberg were en route to Mumbai, which suffered a series of deadly terrorist attacks, including one on the Chabad Lubavitch Nariman House Wednesday night and into yesterday, after hearing that their grandson had reportedly been released.
Rivki, 28, Gavriel, 30, a Chabad emissary, and their 2-year-old son, Moishe were among several Israelis taken hostage by armed terrorists who stormed into the Chabad Center in the city.
Yesterday morning, the family heard that the terrorists had released their grandson and the family's Indian caretaker. At first it was reported that he had been released with his mother, but later it appeared that it was the caretaker who was holding his hand.
The caretaker told the media that the Holtzbergs, who remained in the building, were unconscious.
Rabbi Rosenberg said the family has been stationed in India the last five years as Chabad representatives. Prior to their Mumbai posting, they had spent time in Thailand.
Rabbi Holtzberg is Chabad's main emissary in India and sends the movement's people to Chabad centers throughout the country. He also performs kosher slaughter services and sees to kosher meat supplies in Chabad centers in India and Thailand.
Yehudit said the Holtzbergs see their posting as a mission.
"They help Israelis who come to the city and provide them with a warm home, meals and lodging. Sometimes, on weekends and holidays, they have 100 or 200 people staying over," she said.
"We speak with them every day and [Wednesday] morning was no different," the rabbi said. "Everything was alright. In the evening, I gave a lesson in Kabbala and just after 9 P.M. I got a call telling us to listen to news of terrorists attacking in Mumbai. We tried to get in touch but all the systems went down and later we heard that the terrorists stormed the building and they were being held hostage."
"The terrorists stormed the four-story building and Rivki, Gavriel and Moshe-Zvi were being held on the second floor hostage with another six Israelis. We didn't sleep all night, trying to learn more about it and praying," he added.
Gai Yitzhaki, the owner of a Falafel chain in Mumbai, lives near the Taj Mahal and Oberoi hotels, two of the targetted buildings. He said he heard and felt the blasts in his house and later heard of the explosion at the Chabad Center.
He called Rivki Holtzberg, who had invited him to dinner only two hours earlier. "Those two aren't people, they're angels," he said about the Holtzbergs. "Anyone who's been to Mumbai and knows them would say that."