Saturday, February 21, 2009

G-d has granted that I take care of this baby....

The baby boy who was orphaned when his parents were gunned down during a siege at the city's Jewish centre. Moshe Holtzberg was snatched to safety by his Indian nanny from under the noses of the gunmen who brought carnage to India last November. Since that day, Sandra Samuel has rarely left his side and has now taken on the role as his second mother.

"God has granted that I take care of this small baby," she told the Daily Telegraph. "It's my responsibility to be with him now."

Just as she has since the time he was a newborn, Miss Samuel, 44, sleeps in the same room as Moshe.

His Rabbi father and mother were killed the day before his second birthday when Islamic militants took over the Chabad House they ran in Mumbai, one of several targets they laid siege to in the city during the devastating terrorist raid in which more than 170 people died.

It was Miss Samuel, the couple's cook and nanny, who made headlines around the world when she emerged from her hiding space in a storage closet to follow the cries of Moshe.

She found him sitting next to his mother, who lay unconscious next to him. His clothes were splattered with blood. She scooped the wailing toddler into her arms and rushed to safety outside.

She said she had no doubt in her mind she would follow him to Israel when his maternal grandparents decided to take him back.

She has now decided to stay for "as long as he needs me."

"He is always close by to me. When I'm not there for ten or fifteen minutes he asks where I am," said Miss Samuel who has moved in with his grandparents at their home in the northern Israeli town of Afula.

Miss Samuel, who came to Mumbai from Goa and previously worked as a caretaker for the elderly and others before she started work at the Chabad House over four years ago, said she planned to tell Moshe about his parents when he is older.

"I will tell him his parents were extraordinary," she said. "They were so special, so warm."

"I still have not processed that they are not here anymore. I am very happy to be with him. He loves me and I love him. It is all God's grace."

Moshe's mother, Rivka Holtzberg, 28, was six months pregnant when she was shot. Moshe's father, Gavriel Holtzberg, 29 was also found shot and killed along with seven others who had been guests at the Jewish guesthouse.

Rabbi Shimon Rosenberg, Moshe's grandfather, said that in the immediate days after the attack the toddler, a boy with honey coloured hair and brown eyes, was afraid to be around men so the Miss Samuel's help was crucial.

He said: "He has a strong connection to her, like a mother. He is with her all the time."

When he asks where his mother and father are he is told they are in heaven and will often peer into the sky looking for them.

He also asks about his older brother Dov, who suffered from a severe genetic disease called Tay-Sachs and died about a month after his parents at the age of four and a half. The eldest Holtzberg son named Mendi also died of the same disease at the age of 3 and a half.

When Moshe cries out for his parents, which he does less often than he used to, it's hard for his grandparents to keep their composure.

"This is difficult, it breaks our heart," said Rabbi Rosenberg. "But we try our best never to appear upset in front of him."