Rabbi's child kept asking for water
MUMBAI: Every Friday at 5.30 pm, on the eve of the Sabbath, Shamira Binyamin switches off her cellphone. It's an essential part of the weekly
Jewish prayer ritual she observes which doesn't allow labour in any form. But yesterday, just before doing so, Shamira made over 50 frantic calls. Some were to her brother, Sharon, who was at Colaba all day trying to help rescue operations at Nariman House. Some were to Rabbi Gabriel Holtzberg, who was held hostage by terrorists inside the building, which is where the ultra-orthodox jews have their offices. "I just wanted someone to pick up and tell me if Rabbi Gabriel is okay. This must perhaps be the first Friday when he did not observe Chabad,'' she said. [actually, I presume she meant that he wasn't observing the Sabbath or perhaps preparations for the Sabbath]
Everyone Shamira knows in her community has been praying for the safety of the hostages and in particular, Rabbi Gabriel, "who has left his family and friends in New York to serve the Jewish community here''. Her brother Sharon is a Jewish educator who takes classes every Sunday at the Byculla Synagogue along with the rabbi. As someone who regularly buys kosher provisions from Chabad House, Sharon was planning to visit on Wednesday night when he "changed his mind when his daughter started crying''.
After the Rabbi's child and nanny came out of the besieged building on Thursday, they headed straight to Sharon's house in Byculla. There were there for ten minutes before being escorted to the police station and later, the Israeli consulate. At Sharon's, the nanny who was "very hungry'' was given kosher food, while the boy, Moshe, who kept asking for "maim'' (Hebrew for water), was treated to tefillin, a peanut-and-wheat preparation meant for toothless kids. [tefillin are the head and arm phylacteries. maybe she meant porridge?] "We always go to the Rabbi when we need him,'' Sharon told his sister. "Now he needs us.''
For Shamira and others of this close-knit Jewish community, the last three days have been life-changing. Ezra Moses, secretary of the Thane synagogue, rushed to Colaba on Thursday where he "could not do much but watch''. Moses was revolted by the news coverage on some channels that "seemed to make Jews the villains by saying that they were giving shelter to terrorists''. He even called up the channel and gave them an analogy: "If a robber enters your house and holds a gun to your head, what option do you have?''
That last bit, that the Jews were "villains", is new to me.