NEW DELHI - Standing beside an 11-year-old Jewish boy orphaned in the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Thursday unveiled a memorial to the 166 victims killed by militants at the city's Chabad Center.
Moshe Holtzberg's parents were among six people gunned down at the Jewish center, which was one of the targets of the 10 Muslim militants who rampaged through India’s financial capital for three days nearly a decade ago.
The boy, then just two years old, was saved by his Indian nanny, Sandra Samuel, who grabbed him and fled the building that the militants had stormed. Samuel said she had found him standing over the unconscious bodies of his parents.
The rescue of “Baby Moshe” as he came to be known in India, was one of the positive stories to emerge from the attacks and at Thursday’s ceremony, Samuel received a big round of applause from the audience.
The young, bespectacled boy, who now lives in Israel with his maternal grandparents, said he was happy to return to the place where he was born. He is in Mumbai with his relatives and Samuel, as part of the delegation of Prime Minister Netanyahu, who is wrapping up a visit to India. The nanny, who was given Israeli citizenship, also lives in Israel.
Thursday’s ceremony was an emotional flashback to the horrific strikes in Mumbai with Netanyahu patting and kissing the young boy.
The Israeli prime minister said the place represents both hatred of Israel by terrorists and love — the center served as a place where Jews from the world over were welcomed. He said light would spread from the memorial to make the world a better place.
Parts of the Chabad Center are being converted into a memorial for victims of the attack, which also targeted a main railroad station, posh hotels and a cafe.
The attacks were blamed on the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba and underlined common concerns about terrorist attacks in both countries.
Speaking at a news conference in New Delhi on Tuesday, Netanyahu said India and Israel are challenged by terrorism. “We are talking about cooperation in defense so that our people are always safe and always secure. Indians and Israelis know too well the pain of terrorist attacks; we remember the horrific savagery in Mumbai.”
Ties between India and Israel had been improving since they established diplomatic relations 25 years ago, but the relationship has acquired new momentum since Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Israel six months ago.
Prime Minister Netanyahu also met Indian business leaders during his visit to Mumbai. And one of his last stops before returning to Israel is a meeting with top Bollywood luminaries — it is part of recent efforts by Israel to woo Bollywood filmmakers to shoot movies in the country.
Israel is the latest in dozens of countries that have been courting Indian film producers by offering cheap locations and production facilities. The reason: Bollywood films help boost tourism by triggering interest about the country among India’s vast movie audiences.