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Two floors of Chabad house to be converted into memorial

26/11 victim Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg’s parents asked the designer of the memorial that will come up at Nariman House to preserve the memory of their son and daughter-in-law, who were killed in the attack; therefore, many of the rooms will continue to bear the scars of the 59-hour siege in November 2008

Nariman House, a Chabad Lubavitch Jewish centre in the city that had been attacked by terrorists during the 26/11 massacre, reopened on Tuesday six years after the attacks.

Rabbi Nachman Holtzberg, father of the slain rabbi, speaks in front of an image of his son and daughter-in-law Rivka
Rabbi Nachman Holtzberg, father of the slain rabbi, speaks in front of an image of his son and daughter-in-law Rivka

Six people had been killed when the terrorists stormed the building, including Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife, Rivka; their son, Moshe, then two years old, had become the face of the horror the terrorists had unleashed upon the city.

One of the walls that was riddled with bullets. Pics/Sameer Markande and PTI
One of the walls that was riddled with bullets. Pics/Sameer Markande and PTI

According to plans, the building will be redone to house a memorial on its fourth and fifth floors, where Gavriel and his family stayed. The refurbishment project is being handled by Ralp Appelbaum Associates, a planning, design and media firm based in New York.


However, the bullet holes and other marks left behind by the terrorists will be preserved. The fourth floor, with its bullet marks and a huge crater that was formed due to the impact of the grenades, stands witness to the gruesome incident.

Nick Appelbaum Rabbi Nachman Holtzberg
Rabbi Nachman Holtzberg, Gavriel’s father and Moshe’s grandfather, has asked Nick Applebaum (left), the designer of the memorial, to keep his son and his family’s memories intact in the building

The fifth floor, which was Baby Moshe’s room, has the Hebrew alphabet and Moshe’s name written on its walls. The child’s nanny, Sandra Samuel, had saved his life. “We don’t want the story of our son to be forgotten, so make it in a way that it retains the memory,” the rabbi’s parents have briefed Nick Appelbaum, the designer of the memorial.

Baby Moshe’s room on the fifth floor will have its tiles and ceiling redone, but the graffiti on the wall, which is the Hebrew alphabet and Moshe’s name in the script, will be untouched
The bullet holes and the crater on the fourth floor will be retained as it is, in memory of those who died in the 26/11 attacks. Pics/Sameer Markande

Appelbaum told mid-day, “The fourth floor will be retained as it is. The fifth floor, except for Moshe’s room, will be renovated. In the child’s room, we will redo the tiles and the ceiling, but retain the inscriptions on the wall.

Baby Moshe’s room on the fifth floor will have its tiles and ceiling redone, but the graffiti on the wall, which is the Hebrew alphabet and Moshe’s name in the script, will be untouched
Baby Moshe’s room on the fifth floor will have its tiles and ceiling redone, but the graffiti on the wall, which is the Hebrew alphabet and Moshe’s name in the script, will be untouched

Bullet marks will be covered with transparent glass, so that nothing is hidden and, yet, is safe.” One wall on the fourth floor that had collapsed has been put up again. 25 rabbis from all over the world had flown in for the opening ceremony.

The lobbies and staircases of the Chabad house are filled with pictures of Gavriel and his family
The lobbies and staircases of the Chabad house are filled with pictures of Gavriel and his family

Appelbaum’s company has also constructed the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, and he says he will personally look into the memorial’s progress.

‘Memorial for all’
The project will take about a year to complete and is set to cost US $2.5 million, which has been collected from the Jewish community across the globe. “The memorial is not just for Jews; it stands as a memorial for all those who lost their lives in the 26/11 terrorist attacks,” said Applebaum.

The Colaba building has six floors – the ground floor has been mostly kept open, with a stilt and an entry; the first floor is a kitchen that serves Kosher food and has 6-8 tables; the second floor is a synagogue. A corner in the synagogue, where Gavriel breathed his last, has been lit with candles.

The third floor is a hall, and the fourth and fifth are the memorial floors. The last floor has two rooms and a terrace on its side, above which there is another terrace, where NSG commandoes had landed from the helicopter. The staircase and lobbies are filled with pictures of Gavriel and his family, and their son Moshe, who is now seven years old.

Rabbi Osher Litzman, who had flown down from Korea, said, “When I entered the building, I wish to only say that it’s not the body but the soul that stays with us, and here we feel the same. I knew Gavriel; we would like to maintain this building as it is, because we can’t forget our past. But it is peace and harmony that we would like to take ahead.”

The new Rabbi Motti Seligson and his family will not be residing in the building. When asked if it was a precautionary measure, Seligson maintained that the building is largely a cultural centre and would remain so.

'Moshe is happy now'
Rabbi Nachman Holtzberg, Gavriel’s father and grandfather to Moshe, was present at the Chabad house. When asked about the child, he said, “Moshe is now a grown-up boy. He is seven-and-a- half years old.

Moshe with his nanny Sandra Samuel, who rescued him. File Pic/AFP
Moshe with his nanny Sandra Samuel, who rescued him. File Pic/AFP

He loves playing games; he laughs and he is happy. The nanny is still there, but she doesn’t have to look after him, as he has grown now.” About Moshe’s future, he said, “He is still a small child. We will think when he is older.”

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