Image: Funeral service in Jerusalem
Yossi Zamir  /  EPA
The body of one of the Israeli victims of the Mumbai attacks is wrapped in a prayer shawl as it is carried into the Mount of Olives cemetery in Jerusalem for burial on Tuesday.
updated 12/2/2008 4:06:47 PM ET 2008-12-02T21:06:47

Thousands of grief-stricken Orthodox Jews prayed and wept Tuesday before the shrouded bodies of Israelis killed in Mumbai, joining the national mourning in a ceremony broadcast on TV and attended by Israeli leaders.

The six died when gunmen on a deadly three-day rampage through the Indian city struck Chabad House, the Mumbai headquarters of the Jewish Chabad-Lubavitch movement, last Wednesday. Six Israelis were among the 172 dead.

A crowd gathered at Kfar Chabad, the movement's Israel headquarters, to mourn Rabbi Gavriel Noach Holtzberg, 29, and his 28-year-old wife, Rivka. The two were outreach envoys dispatched to Mumbai as part of the movement's attempt to bring its brand of Judaism to Jews across the world, running an open house aimed mainly at Jewish travelers and merchants.

The couple left a 2-year-old son, Moshe, who was rescued by his Indian nanny. Rivka was six months pregnant when she was killed, a Chabad spokesman, Avraham Berkowitz, said Tuesday.

The crowd of thousands at their funeral included Israel's president, Shimon Peres, the country's chief rabbis and other top government officials.

"We will answer the terrorists," Moshe Kotlarsky, a Chabad rabbi from New York, vowed, his voice shaking. He said his weapon would be the teachings of God.

He pledged to rebuild the Mumbai center and name it after the Holtzbergs. Chabad operates thousands such outreach centers around the world.

'The child of all of Israel'
The Holtzbergs' bodies — hers wrapped in a shroud, his in a prayer shawl — rested on benches on a dais nearby. Coffins are not used in Jewish funerals in Israel.

Their small son, who returned to Israel on Monday with the nanny and the bodies of his parents, was not present. At a tearful ceremony held at a Mumbai synagogue before their flight, the boy called out for his mother in a scene that was repeatedly broadcast on Israeli TV.

"You don't have a mother who will hug you and kiss you," Kotlarsky said, his eulogy alternating between Hebrew and English. But the community will take care of the boy, he vowed: "You are the child of all of Israel."

Image: Funeral service for Mumbai victim
Kevin Frayer  /  AP
Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men gather during the final burial of Rabbi Gavriel Noach Holtzberg and his wife Rivkah on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.
The only other surviving member of the family, Moshe's brother, has Tay-Sachs, a terminal genetic disease, and is institutionalized in Israel. The Holtzbergs' eldest son died of the illness.

The Holtzbergs lived in Israel and Brooklyn before they moved to Mumbai in 2003. Rabbi Holtzberg also had U.S. citizenship.

'May God avenge them'
The grimness of the funerals, and the national attention, was deepened by the conviction that the victims died because they were Jews.

"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 Leibish Teitelbaum, in Jerusalem.

Teitelbaum, a U.S. citizen who lived in Jerusalem, was a member of Satmar, an ultra-Orthodox sect that does not accept Israel as a Jewish state. Several thousand mourners, most of them bearded men with sidelocks and garbed in long black coats and black hats, packed the main square, narrow alleys and rooftops of Mea Shearim, a large Orthodox neighborhood in Jerusalem, for his funeral.

Death notices plastered the neighborhood's billboards and walls, reading "May God avenge them." Loudspeakers carried the sounds of wailing mourners reciting prayers from the Book of Psalms.

A fourth victim, 50-year-old Norma Shvarzblat Rabinovich of Mexico, had planned to immigrate to Israel this week. The two other victims were Yocheved Orpaz, 60, who was traveling in India and Bentzion Chroman, 28, who like Teitelbaum, was a supervisor of kosher food.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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