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Life’s beauty outshines the shadow of evil

On an inspiring chance encounter with Moshe Holtzberg, who survived the Mumbai terror attack that killed his parents
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, left, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meet with Moshe Holtzberg and his nanny Sandra Samuel in Kfar Chabad, Israel on July 5, 2017. (Atef Safadi/AFP/Getty Images/via JTA)

About six years ago, I was out planning hikes in northern Israel with fellow tour guides Mordechai, Asaf and Moishe for a yearly fund-raising hike that Keshet Educational runs for the Melabev Walkathon for Alzheimer’s Care. It was a miserable day, much rain, but we were in the comfortable confines of the Keshet Jeep. Mordechai was in the year of mourning after the passing of his father, so we knew that we needed to end our day before sundown in order to get him to a synagogue to say the mourner’s kaddish.

But we didn’t tell that to the ground. The Tabor Riverbed was getting saturated, and our jeep got stuck in the mud. We pushed and we pulled, and after much time, thanks to my great driving (eye-roll, please), we were able to get out of our predicament, but it was getting really late! The sun was basically setting and we were in the middle of nowhere. Mordechai pulled out his cellphone to check where the nearest minyan would be so he could say kaddish.

After debating between Kibbutz Lavi and Afula, we decided to go for the latter as there was a Chabad Synagogue there (Mordechai is a Chabad Rabbi) and they always start late. So we sped over there, leaving mud tracks the entire way and pulled up to the Chabad synagogue as it was quite dark. We got our muddy bodies and shoes out of the jeep and ran in to the synagogue – and made it on time! (Chabad time) While we were there, we found it peculiar that there was a seven-year-old boy saying kaddish with someone who looked to be his grandfather. Using his Chabad knowledge, Mordechai realized that it was Moshe Holtzberg, the son of the victims of the Chabad House of Mumbai who were killed when he was two. It was the yearly Yartzheit of that terrible tragedy.

Israel is a small country. Our lives are so intertwined.

This past Shabbat was Moshe’s Bar Mitzvah in that same synagogue in Afula. The beauty of life outshining the shadow of death and evil.

“As you make this important transition and cross a significant landmark in the journey of your life, the courage of [nanny] Sandra and prayers of the people of India will continue to bless you for a long, healthy and successful life,” Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi wrote in a letter to Moshe, COLLive reported. “Your story continues to inspire everyone. It is one of miracle and hope overcoming tragedy and immeasurable loss.”

Mazal tov to little Moshe and his family. His parents would have been so proud!

About the Author
Geoff has been living in Israel for nearly 30 years. He is the Programs Director at Keshet Educational Journeys and is a licensed tour guide through the Ministry of Tourism. Previously, Geoff was a founding staff member of the Keshet (no relation) Democratic School for secular and religious students in his home town of Zichron Yaakov and before that an educator at the Alexander Muss High School in Israel. He is a husband and father of five.
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