'We will fight terrorists with torches'

Rabbi delivers impassioned eulogy at Holtzbergs' burial; thousands attend Mumbai victims' funerals.

mumbai coffins 248.88 (photo credit: GPO)
mumbai coffins 248.88
(photo credit: GPO)
Throngs of mourners on Tuesday packed the funerals of the six Jews killed in last week's terror attack in India, turning the narrow alleys of one Jerusalem neighborhood into a sea of black coats and hats and drawing thousands to an anguished ceremony in the community whose Mumbai headquarters was targeted. The six died after gunmen struck the Chabad House, the Mumbai headquarters of the ultra-Orthodox Lubavitch movement, last Wednesday. After a two-day standoff, four Israelis, an American Jew and a Mexican woman were dead. The woman had planned to move to Israel this week. A huge crowd gathered Tuesday outside the Israeli headquarters of the Chabad movement, whose emissary to Mumbai, Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg, 29, was murdered along with his 28-year-old wife, Rivka. Those in attendance included President Shimon Peres and a slew of other dignitaries. Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, a Chabad official from New York, delivered an impassioned eulogy, describing the young couple as dedicated people who would stop at nothing to help a fellow Jew. "We will answer the terrorists," he vowed, his voice shaking. "We will not fight them with AK47s. We will not fight them with grenades. We will not fight them with tanks. "We will fight them with torches!" he cried, referring to God's teachings. He pledged to rebuild the Mumbai center and name it after the Holtzbergs. The Holtzbergs' bodies - hers wrapped in a shroud, his in a prayer shawl - rested on chairs on the dais where the eulogies and prayers were delivered. The couple left behind a 2-year-old son, Moshe, who was rescued by his Indian caretaker, Sandra Samuel. "You don't have a mother who will hug you and kiss you," Rabbi Kotlarsky cried out during a eulogy that switched back and forth between Hebrew and English. But the community will take care of the boy, he vowed: "You are the child of all of Israel." The Holtzbergs had lived in Israel and Brooklyn before they moved to Mumbai in 2003. Rabbi Holtzberg also had US citizenship. Addressing the crowd, Peres called on the world to unite in the fight against terrorism. He singled out Iran, which supports anti-Israel terrorist groups and whose president has called for Israel's destruction. "If the entire world doesn't join together as one man and say 'enough!,' then the world is in danger. This is a plague that is difficult to stop," he said. In addition to Peres, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel's two chief rabbis were among the thousands who attended the nationally televised ceremony. The grimness of the funerals was deepened by the conviction that the victims were struck because of their religion. "It's a very difficult feeling because we know this was targeted against us," said Eliahu Tzadok, 41, who attended the funeral of another victim, 38-year-old Aryeh Leibish Teitelbaum, in Jerusalem. "It's a continuation of acts against the Jewish people when the Jewish people did nothing to deserve it." Teitelbaum, a US citizen who lived in Jerusalem, was in Mumbai last week supervising the preparation of kosher food. Several thousand ultra-Orthodox mourners, packed the main square, narrow alleys and rooftops of Mea Shearim, a large religious area of Jerusalem, for his funeral. Death notices plastered the neighborhood's billboards and walls, reading "May God avenge them." Loudspeakers blazed with the sounds of weeping, wailing mourners reciting tehilim (psalms). Speaking to Israel Radio, a friend of Teitelbaum's said he "came from a very distinguished family," and that "he strove in his studies and was preparing himself to be a rabbi." The friend also explained that Teitelbaum, a hassid from the Toldos Avraham Yitzhak sect, was honored with a Jewish funeral, rather than a State funeral, as he "lived as a Jew and will be buried as a Jew." Teitelbaum's family had rejected Israel's offer to include him in the official memorial ceremony at Ben-Gurion Airport on Monday night, when the victim's bodies arrived from India on an IAF jet. In line with their group's anti-Zionist stance, the family emphasized that they wanted no government involvement in the burial of Teitelbaum's remains, nor did they did want his coffin to be wrapped in an Israeli flag as those of the other Jewish and Israeli victims would be. Teitelbaum, who held an American passport, disavowed his Israeli citizenship despite residing in Jerusalem. His wife and eight children hold Israeli citizenship. A fourth victim, 50-year-old Norma Shvarzblat-Rabinovich of Mexico, was buried in Givat Shaul. Shvarzblat-Rabinovich was a Mexican Jew who had planned to make aliya to Israel to join two of her children who had already moved here. She had spent the past few months touring India, and had planned to fly from Mumbai to Israel on Monday - the 18th birthday of her son, Manuel - before she was killed, according to the Foreign Ministry Web site. At noon, a service in memory of Bentzion Kruman, 28, was held in Bat Yam, and he will be buried later in the afternoon at the Segula cemetery. His funeral will be attended by his family, and community leaders. Tel-Aviv resident Yocheved Orpaz's funeral will be held in the mid-afternoon at the city's Yarkon cemetery. Later Tuesday, a state ceremony for the victims is planned at Peres' Jerusalem residence. Tovah Lazaroff and Abe Selig contributed to this report