On November 28, 2008, Jean Goldi Horta became the “child of a terror victim”
when her mother was brutally murdered by Pakistani terrorists at a Chabad House
in Mumbai, India along with five others.
In another time, another place,
Horta would have been content to spend her time discussing the overlap of
eastern and western philosophy. She had never wanted anyone’s attention,
certainly not their pity. But life never asked Horta what she wanted.
tragedy is particularly poignant when one considers that her mother, Norma
Shvarzblat Rabinovich, was only days away from making aliya. She had already
purchased a plane ticket to permanently join two of her children in
The tragic irony continues.
Rabinovich did arrive in
Israel on the day she was due to make aliya, only she did so in a
As Horta told The Jerusalem Post, “she came when she was supposed
But the story is several years old and the last official state
ceremonies honoring the families of the victims of the attack ended in 2010. So
why, aside from being one of many tragic Jewish stories of the past, is this
still relevant now? It is still relevant because the second part of the tragedy
was not brought about by Pakistani terrorists, but, as Horta tells the story, by
the State of Israel – in the shape of the National Insurance Institute. The very
state to which Horta, her brother and her mother were so committed that they
were willing to make it their home, leaving their native Mexico.
the family of the murdered Chabad rabbi received the immediate and full
compensation from the NII due “family of terror victims,” Horta – at the time 24
and not remotely economically self-sufficient – was denied the same.
non-Jewish Indian nanny of the Chabad rabbi’s surviving child was given honorary
citizenship, but Horta’s mother’s citizenship was invalidated by the
Why? Because the Pakistani terrorists had murdered her mother days
before she could fully complete her dream of making aliya.
extensive interview with the Post Horta was for the most part, unexpectedly calm
and reserved. One of the few times that her voice rose, her chin shook and her
eyes became teary was when she discussed the NII “helping the
Horta’s point was that NII was “helping” destroy her
mother’s dream by saying that her murder, at the hands of terrorists, before she
set foot on Israeli soil made her not a full citizen.
NII’s rejection on
the one hand and the generosity and encouragement of One Family Fund activist
Nava Formansky, Kadima MK Ze’ev Bielski and volunteer attorney Uri Zamberg on
the other, led her to challenge the NII in court.
threatened by a lawsuit, did NII relent and compensate Horta. The amount she
will receive is due to be announced shortly.
The NII also got into hot
water not long ago when it initially refused to process the burial of one of the
terror victims of the shooting in Toulouse, France in March – due to citizenship
Horta, who had been living in Israel for seven years when the
court case started, began to confront thorny and complicated questions. These
questions went to straight to the root of what she had thought was her
At 18, Horta was a Zionist who organized her own
trip to a kibbutz. Her commitment was that much more impressive because she came
to Israel at the height of the second intifada, despite the fact that her
original trip was canceled.
Everyone thought she was crazy to come at
that time, she said.
At this point in the telling, Horta sighed in her
characteristic philosophical manner, pondering the cruel irony that she had come
away without a scratch while her mother – who had been on a vacation in India –
had arrived in Israel in a coffin.
Despite being a ardent Zionist, the
entire experience with the NII conjured up new issues for her: Was she alone and
separate from the Jewish state that she had worked so hard to be a part of? In
terms of being let down by the country, Horta said, “I made aliya partly because
I was taught Israel was a place for pioneers, turning the desert into
She continued, “I’m supporting the country and government [so]
that when it comes to killing,” they should do what they think they need to do
to defend the country, “they’ll go all the way, but when it comes to recognizing
that someone else died for it,” they say “you don’t fit the profile and if you
get f***ed on the way to Israel and you’re stuck between the chairs then tough
s**t, we can’t help you.”
And although she would not want to highlight
it, Horta’s entire experience of her mother’s tragedy was one of being
When she first learned that her mother had not survived the
attack, she was in Japan on a year abroad from her philosophy degree program at
Tel Aviv University. She had only been there for a few months, and had no
family, no roommates and no real close friends. At first, she was told her
mother survived, only later to be told she was killed.
It was not until
after the state ceremonies and the shiva were over that Horta finally cried in
the arms of one of her aunts. She said she “finally felt safe,” and that she
could “mourn her mother as a person,” not just as “the daughter of a terror
Horta explained how upset she became when her water bottle was
taken away at the airport security check en route to her mother’s funeral.
Noting that water is a basic element of living, she became animated, paused,
snapped her mouth shut determinedly and then her eyes filled with tears. “It
makes me afraid that they’ve won…they want to prevent…stop our
But Horta emerged victorious and with some newfound hope, as
she discovered there were those who did stand by her in her moment of
From Formansky to Bielski to Zamberg to Labor Court Judge Ornit
Agassi, there were people who restored Horta’s faith and connection to the
state, beyond the question of the money. There were those who reminded her that
she, and others who have been victims, will never stand alone.
say the case represents a frequent and current storyline in the state: Sometimes
significant errors are made and there are those who seem to have lost the spirit
of what brought millions of Jews back to Israel.
But there are always
others ready to rise up and remind the rest of us that the modern Jewish state
stands for something deeper which unites us all.