“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 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. Moshe’s maternal grandfather Shimon Rosenberg said the boy remembers his parents every day.
“Sure, he remembers them,” said Rosenberg. “He 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 Std II.” 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. 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 November 26 and laid a bloody siege that lasted till the afternoon of November 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.