Friday, 20 November 2009

We will remember them

It is just over a year since the Mumbai terrorist attacks which killed so many innocent victims, amongst which were Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg.

I wrote about the effect that this had on me then, and a year on the horror of it hasn't escaped me. The idea that people who were selfless enough to leave behind their lives to set up an outreach centre in Bombai could be killed in such a brutal way defies me, and at the time defied my faith. I needed at the time to let my Chabad friends know that I shared their sorrow. I needed to show my solidarity. They accepted it gracefully but very discreetly. They showed their pain but not their anger. Their acceptance derives from their conviction that such events are a part of G-d's plan. They accept the good and the bad with equal serenity - one which I cannot emulate.

Chabad doctrine states that everything can be made to be a force for good, so this informed their reaction to the tragedy. They mounted an appeal for women to light Shabbos (Sabbath) candles in memory of Rivkah. They asked people to pledge a mitzvah (a good deed).

When the attacks happened it definitely shook my faith, whereas it made theirs and their resolve even stronger.

A year on I am grateful for Sanda, their Indian nanny's, bravery in saving their only son, Moishe. Their older children died from genetic problems, so he is very much a miracle child in more ways than one. Thank G-d that there is a thread of continuity for these young lives lost. I only hope that Moishe will be able to grow up like a normal child as much as possible, and forge his own identity, rather than always being thought of as the child that made the press all over the world, the 'child of' Gavriel and Rivkah rather than a person in his own right. If only there were more people like Sandra, who risked her life to save Moishe as the terrorists were on the roof of the Chabad House.

I will not forget the futility of this terrorist attack. It sickens me to the core. I pray for the families who lost loved ones in Mumbai and am grateful for the freedom that I have thanks to all who are fighting and have fought for us in the past and thanks to people like Sandra - ordinary people who do heroic things all the time without seeking recognition. Thank you.