Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert vowed yesterday to do everything necessary to protect Jewish institutions after nine Israelis were killed in assaults by Islamist militants in the Indian city of Mumbai.
“Israel is doing, and will continue to do anywhere, whatever it takes to protect Jewish institutions,” Olmert told a weekly Cabinet meeting.
“The images of the Jewish victims ... are horrifying and send us back to times and places we thought had passed,” he said in allusion to the Holocaust in World War II and other acts of anti-Semitic violence. “The hatred of Jews and the hatred of Israel and the hatred of Jewish symbols still continue to be a source fueling these acts of murder.”
Israeli embassy officials in India have said that they did not believe that Chabad House, a cultural center run by the ultra-Orthodox Lubavitch movement where eight of the Israelis were killed, could have been targeted by accident.
“We will act, also in cooperation with the Indian government, to protect as much as possible the many Israelis and Jews in these areas who want, and are entitled to, full security,” Olmert said. “The Israeli government hopes India will know how to recover from the trauma. I send my condolences to the families of all the victims and of the Jewish and Israeli victims of the terror attacks.”
Meanwhile, Israeli defense officials say two high-ranking security men have been dispatched to India to assist with the investigation into the Mumbai attacks.
One is a representative of the Israeli Defense Ministry and the other is from the Shin Bet security service.
Israelis sadly familiar with the threat of attack came to grips with new vulnerability on Saturday as at least seven Israeli families prepared to bury loved ones slain at a Jewish center tucked quietly at the end of an alley in India.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry said the Israelis were killed at the Chabad House. Indian commandos stormed the building, but none of the hostages was found alive.
Two of the victims ran the five-story center. Rabbi Gavriel Noach Holtzberg, 29, a dual US-Israeli citizen, and his 28-year-old Israeli wife, Rivkah, were members of the New York-based Chabad-Lubavitch sect.
The couple’s toddler son Moshe, who celebrated his second birthday on Saturday, was spirited out of the five-story building by a center employee, unharmed but his pants soaked with blood. Another son, who was ailing, was in Israel.
Three other victims at the Chabad House had been identified: Bentzion Chroman, a dual US-Israeli citizen, Rabbi Leibish Teitelbaum, a US citizen who lived in Jerusalem, and tourist Yocheved Orpaz.