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Update – 1 December 2008

Dear Advocates, 

I, like many others, have been glued to the television for the past few days trying to comprehend the atrocities committed in Mumbai. Over 180 people have been killed and hundreds more injured, though I would prefer not to talk about people as if they are simply numbers.

Our local media has pretty extensive coverage as more stories continue to come in. To see the coverage in The Australian, click here. Please also read ‘Captured Mumbai terrorist reveals plot to kill up to 5,000’ from the Age. There is so much information out there at the moment and I am sure we are all reading the same material over and over but I thought I would post just a few stories.

Among those murdered are up to 9 Israelis and Jews who were held hostage at the Chabad House for over 40 hours before Indian commandos carried out an operation in which the terrorists were killed and the discovery was made that all of the hostages inside the building had been murdered.

Given that the Chabad House in Mumbai is out of the way at the end of an alley, the centre had to have been a deliberate target. Reports are now coming through that the only terrorist caught alive has told police that the terrorists did purposely target the centre. Additionally, reports are coming through that the terrorists may have stayed at the Chabad House recently posing as Malaysian tourists.

Among those killed were the directors of the Chabad House, Rabbi Gavriel and Rivkah Holtzberg z”l. One report I have read suggested that in a final act of love, Rabbi Holtzberg wrapped the body of his wife Rivka in a tallit before succumbing to his wounds. They have been described by everyone who knew them as a wonderful, selfless couple who gave up their comforts to help others. To read more, please click here and here. Please also read this personal account of the Rabbi and his wife from a member of the Sydney Jewish community who spent six months in India last year. 

Please read ‘Mumbai horror: Rescue workers shocked by Chabad massacre site’ from ynet and ‘9 dead in Mumbai Chabad house attack: Israel to help identify the bodies’ from Haaretz.

I do not want to be critical of the attempt to save the hostages in the Chabad centre, or to speculate on what might have been, but the images of the operation on the television did not provide much comfort. Please read ‘Indian commandos may have killed some Chabad hostages’ from Jerusalem Post. On the flipside, please also read ‘Israel praises India rescue effort’ from ynet.

In Israel, victims of terror are given certain burial arrangements and their families receive a certain level of support from the country. Israelis that are killed abroad in terror attacks directed specifically against Israeli targets are also given the same treatment. On Sunday, the Ministerial Committee for Symbols and Ceremonies decided to recognise the Israeli victims of the Mumbai attacks as official victims of terror. Sadly, this will not be the case of Norma Shvarzblat Ravinovich z”l, a Mexican national who was murdered in the Chabad attacks just one day before making Aliyah. While the Foreign Ministry has named her among the Israeli victims, the National Institute of Israel (NII) said it will not offer her family the stipends allotted in such cases. For more information, click here.

Please read an analysis of the situation by Barry Rubin entitled ‘India and Israel: The Parallels’.

Additionally, a personal gripe of mine has always been the language that news agencies use in regards to terrorism, where they continually use words such as “militants” to define the perpetrators. Why not call a spade a spade? Honest Reporting has put together a report on the coverage over the past few days entitled ‘Terrorism in Mumbai’.

Over the weekend I reflected on this attack and the many that have preceded them in the name of ideology. I worry for the world that our children are inheriting and hope that a peaceful solution can eventually be found.

Best wishes,

Emily Chrapot
Research Officer
Zionist Council of Victoria
9272 5507