Prime Minister Narendra Modi has written an emotional letter to 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attack survivor Moshe Holtzberg, an Israeli national, and congratulated him by describing his story as a "miracle" which continues to "inspire" everyone. Moshe Tzvi Holtzberg was a two-year-old toddler when his parents were killed in the terror attacks at Nariman House (also known as Chabad House) by Pakistani terrorists.
The boy, standing and crying between his dead parents' bodies, was saved in a daring move by his nanny, Sandra Samuels, who was hiding in a room downstairs when the attack happened. Pictures of Sandra holding the little boy close to her chest after escaping from the place touched the hearts of millions of people all over the world.
“As you make this important transition and cross a significant landmark in the journey of your life, the courage of [nanny] Sandra [Samuel] and prayers of the people of India will continue to bless you for a long, healthy and successful life,” Modi wrote in a message to Moshe, who celebrated his Bar Mitzvah on Sunday.
Bar Mitzvah is a ceremony performed for Jewish boys at the age of 13 which some Israeli scholars compare with upnayana or the thread ceremony. The youngster turned 13 as per the Gregorian calendar on November 28.
"Your story continues to inspire everyone. It is one of miracle and hope overcoming tragedy and immeasurable loss", the prime minister stressed in his message. Modi, whose message was read out by Sanjeev Singla, India's Ambassador to Israel, said that the perpetrators of the "cowardly terrorist attack" in Mumbai "clearly failed" in their intent.
"They could not subdue our vibrant diversity. Nor could they dampen our spirit to march forward. Today, India and Israel stand together even more determined against terrorism and hatred", Modi wrote. The prime minister also mentioned about his meeting with Moshe during his trip to Israel in July 2017 and expressed hope that his wish to return to Mumbai as the director of the Chabad House "comes true".
In an emotional meeting with Modi on July 5, 2017 in Jerusalem, the young boy expressed his wish to be able to visit Mumbai.
"I hope I will be able to visit Mumbai, and when I get older, live there. I will be the director of our Chabad House...I love you and your people in India," Moshe told the prime minister who embraced the young boy on seeing him. Modi had responded by saying, "Come and stay in India and Mumbai. You are most welcome. You and your all family members will get long-term visas. So you can come anytime and go anywhere".
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had then promptly asked Moshe to join him when he travels to India, a promise he did not forget and the family accompanied him during his trip to India in 2018. India issued 10-year multiple entry visas to Moshe and his grandparents to ease their travel to the country in August 2017.
Modi is said to have personally followed up on the matter as promised to Moshe during their meeting. The Lashkar-e-Toiba terrorists who carried out Mumbai 26/11 attacks in 2008 also targeted the Chabad House where six Jews, including Moshe's parents Rabbi Gabriel and Rivka Holtzberg, were killed.
They were Chabad emissaries to Mumbai at that time. Netanyahu also posted a congratulatory video message for the 13-year-old youngster saying, “we know that life, revival and mitzvahs came out of this tragedy. You are here now with the love of the entire Jewish People, the citizens of Israel and many, many people abroad.”
The Israeli prime minister's wife, Sarah Netanyahu, said, “Since you were two years old, you have been fighting to continue your life each day, but you are enveloped with your grandparents' and family's love. All of Israel is with you.”
Holtzberg joined Netanyahu on a visit to India in 2018 when they visited the Mumbai Chabad House and dedicated a memorial to the victims of the 2008 terror attack. They also recited a prayer of thanks to God for sparing Moshe's life. Moshe travelled to New York ahead of the Sunday night celebrations where he had a Bar Mitzvah related ceremony with his father's family and friends.