Saturday, 29 November 2008

For Rabbi Gavriel Noach Holtzberg and Rivka and Chabad in Mumbai.

We've had recourse to Chabad. Twice, so far. The first time in Bangkok, Thailand. I contacted them when 'Zach' was holed up in hospital, after 'Rickey' had managed to find him on that manic journey from the borders of Laos through an opium filled haze to the room overlooking the tropical gardens and the motorways of Thailand's major city. The local Chabad representative came in to visit him, bringing a menorah because it was close to Hanukah, as well as food and drinks and general good humour. Rickey wasn't quite sure, fearful that they might be there to 'evangelisize' him. I told him that they weren't that interested in converting those who had not been of the faith beforehand. As it was, he had plenty of discourse with them, trying his best to dissuade them from religion to hedonism. They weren't convinced.

The second time was last year, when 'Sam' and I were compelled once again to go and bring Zach back to this country. Another horrendously expensive repatriation. Three days in Chaing Mai. Beforehand I'd made contact with Rabbi Nehemia in Bangkok who put me in touch with Moyshi in Chaing Mai. Even in these far-flung posts, the Lubavitch make sure that there's somewhere for weary travellers to find a Friday night dinner or a break from the intensity of their journeys.

Moyshi and his Israeli helper Yossi had been to visit Zach in the 'cage'. This was a separate area of the whitewashed, seemingly harmless looking psychiatric hospital wherein Zach was once more incarcerated. I had received an anxiety ridden phone call from Moyshi before we'd left. 'You have to get him out of there,' he told me, almost breathlessly. 'Otherwise, he'll die...' When you hear something like that, you're not quite sure where you go or what you do. Apparently Zach was in a large cage with the demented and the criminally insane. I told them to do whatever they could to help. And they did.

The two Chabadniks moved Zach into a private ward. They visited him daily. They contacted the British consular offices. They took him in food and drink and clothing and stayed with him, talking to him so that he should once again feel that he was a human being. This was nothing particularly new to them. They'd done it many times before and asked nothing from us for so doing.

What Moyshi and Yossi did was no different to what other Chabad outreach workers do worldwide. It's no different to what Gavriel Noach Holtzberg and his wife Rivka did in Mumbai. Their view was to help others, while living a very simple life themselves. They would have provided succour for travellers, a meal or two and other help should someone have health issues or, as above, acute mental health problems. Why they particularly were singled out and murdered in the backstreets of an Indian city is a heinous crime and one that can never be forgiven. There's no excuse that anyone can make.

When I spoke to my sister about why Nariman house had been attacked, she thought it was because it was 'near the hotels'. That wasn't the case, I explained. The terrorists had chosen to go to Chabad house because there were Jews there. Once in there, they bound their hostages and murdered them because they could. I was touched by the young Mumbaiker correspondent on our satellite Indian station. She was in tears after Nariman house had finally been cleared of its terrorists. 'Did you know,' she said, 'the Rabbi's baby who was saved by their cook celebrates his birthday today. He's an orphan because his parents have been killed and will celebrate that for the rest of his life.'


devora f =) said...

Thank you for this testimony to the work of Chabad, going out of their way, even for those whom many would regard as 'beyond help.' It's true.
Tamar Frankiel, Los Angeles

Ros Morris said...

Thank you for commenting. I'm secular but I think that the work that Chabad do is extraordinary. Thanks for reading the blog.