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בית חב"ד
November 29, 2008 3:57 PM   Subscribe

Set up by Hasidic Jews as Community Centres, there are 3000+ Chabad Houses around the globe. The recent terror attack at the Centre in Mumbai took the lives of 9 people, including a Rabbi and his wife. The rescue (YT) was not without contention. You may also remember this Bangkok Rabbi from his interview in 1 Giant Leap.
posted by gman (22 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
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posted by mhz at 4:02 PM on November 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


I've done a decent amount of backpacking in far off places where Israelis tend to wander off to after their army service, including 7 months in India. I can confirm that there are indeed Beth Chabad places all over the world, including tiny remote villages in the middle of nowhere.

They seem to provide a valuable service, and certainly give Israelis a home-away-from-home where they can hang out, check their email for free (at least in big cities), meet other Israelis, and participate in Shabbat dinner on fridays.

I've seen them perform another interesting, yet not so well documented role.

Many Israeli backpackers (just as 22 year olds from other countries) tend to go a bit overboard when on vacation -- after all, it is hedonism, easy sex, drinking, and plentiful cheap hashish after years of being told what to do in the army.

Unfortunately, doing the ol' Boom Shiva 5-10 per day, day after day, week after week, can take a toll on one's sanity.

When this excessive use of drugs takes its toll, as it does to some, the rabbi at Beth Chabad is usually there -- able to take the person in, provide them with a bit of stability, call their parents at home to come and collect them, and or use it as an opportunity to brainwash them bring them back to God. Essentially, Chabad acts as a religion funded safety net for the tens of thousands of Israelis who backpack around the developing world.

Given the focus of the terrorists on high-end hotels (such as the Taj), and thus rich tourists, it is interesting (and unfortunate, given my own means of travel), that they also focused on Chabad -- which far more caters to the unshaven, budget backpacker. In the initial news reports on the attacks, I took some comfort in the fact that I am far to poor to stay at the Taj, and so had I been in India, I would have been safe. It's not so nice to find out that the terrorists are also targeting the backpacker crowd.
posted by genome4hire at 4:25 PM on November 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


I've seen the videos of the soldiers shooting into the Chabad apartment(s). Were the hostages already killed at that point or is there a real possibility, do you think, that they were shot by government security forces?

Also, I've not been able to find much background on the terrorists or their motivations, or any possible anti-semitism there, aside from what is usually associated with Muslim extremists (i.e., specifically anti-Zionism). Can anyone fill me in on why they were especially fixated on these Jews? Or was this a target of opportunity?
posted by luriete at 4:59 PM on November 29, 2008


I do think there's a real possibility some were shot by the Indian security forces. An unknown group calling itself Deccan Mujahideen claimed responsibility. As for why they chose the Chabad House, see the 'lives of 9 people' link in my post.
posted by gman at 6:04 PM on November 29, 2008


Counterterrorism Blog: It’s much too early to identify the group or groups involved in the Mumbai terrorist attack or to place blame for what has occurred.

That said, if Al-Qaeda sympathisers were responsible, they don't really distinguish between Jews and Israelis, any more than they distinguish between civilians and non-civilians. The really unpleasant aspect of this attack in my eyes is that none of the alternatives are very good. If it's AQ, that means they're still capable of innovative attacks on civilians at a place of their choosing. If it's a separate international group, that means we now have two AQ-like organizations competing with each other. If it's a home-grown group, that means home-grown groups are getting the technical and organizational skills to mount attacks as complex and innovative as AQ's.
posted by topynate at 6:08 PM on November 29, 2008


genome4hire: The Leopold Cafe was attacked first, followed by the long-distance section at CST.

luriete: Too early to say, but as I understand, the NSG started their bombardment (they blasted a huge hole into the staircase to stop the terrorists from going between floors, among other things) into Nariman House when they realized there were no survivors.

The Chabad House was _specifically_ chosen for being a center for Israelis in Bombay; note that they came down specifically to Nariman House after they landed their boats. As I mentioned in the previous thread, this would make it the first attack on Jews on Indian soil in the one thousand or so years of Jewish presence in the Malabar coast. Also, the aiyah (nanny) who saved the kid by simply darting out of the place is Muslim.
posted by the cydonian at 6:17 PM on November 29, 2008


(Lots of links in the previous thread showing why this Deccan Mujahideen thing is fiction. Won't bother re-linking to all of them; suffice it to say that this was a sea-borne attack involving a highly-trained snipers on a hijacked GPS-fitted fishing boat from Karachi.)
posted by the cydonian at 6:27 PM on November 29, 2008


I'm already seeing claims that this entire thing was a Mossad false-flag operation. Some people have no shame.
posted by 1adam12 at 11:39 PM on November 29, 2008


Not to hog the thread here, but a couple of points to add:

Some Israeli response: bad intel, slow response. NSG take nine hours to come to Bombay, logistical problems in moving 200 commandos from Delhi.

No telescopes, night-vision goggles etc for NSG. Bad operational intel as well; difficult to manouevre inside a sprawling hotel and to a building that's in the middle of one of Mumbai's densest localities.

The result: as the Israeli expert speculated, most of the hostages not rescued by day 1 were already killed killed or tortured as the days progressed. Hence the all-out final assault (which is to corroborate what I said earlier with links).

I'm not entirely sure what to make of all this, and am still evaluating what could have been done better by the forces. One quite clear truth seems to be that we need better _localized_ urban-warfare teams, with first-hand local knowledge about the terrain and conditions, instead of relying on a centrally located army-unit. That said, the costs involved in maintaining an elite force are also significant; they have constant training needs.

But yes, the lack of actual intel on this is quite massive; the terrorists apparently stockpiled armaments for months in the Nariman House and the Taj, and nobody had any clue. _That_ , I think, the most troubling aspect of it all, not just how it played out over the past few days.
posted by the cydonian at 5:24 AM on November 30, 2008


I posted this in the last thread, but: My Chabad rabbi stated that a new Chabad couple got on a plane to Mumbai last nighty, to continue to Holtzberg's work.

I've already posted (somewhat incoherently, as it turns out) about the Sabbath dinner on Friday night, how three people (the rabbi, his wife, and another woman) all knew the Holtzbergs, but managed to make it a happy, welcoming place despite all the pain. Laughter. I won't be able to attend the memorial service today, and it hurts.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 6:28 AM on November 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


The Chabad House was _specifically_ chosen for being a center for Israelis in Bombay; note that they came down specifically to Nariman House after they landed their boats. As I mentioned in the previous thread, this would make it the first attack on Jews on Indian soil in the one thousand or so years of Jewish presence in the Malabar coast. Also, the aiyah (nanny) who saved the kid by simply darting out of the place is Muslim.

That's quite an inflammatory assertion. Can you clarify your sources that show that the House was specifically targeted, and targeted for this reason? According to the NYT, initial reports that certain groups of foreigners were targeted proved to be false- those who suffered and died were overwhelmingly Indian, and everything I've read about this incident indicates that it was at attack on India as such. So little is known about the attack or the attackers at this point that any explanation is possible, but I'd like to get a little more information before I jump to these conclusions.

That aside, I was very struck by the dedication and commitment of this young couple. I hope that the strong extended family networks of the Hasidic community in Brooklyn will make it possible for their young son to grow up among loved ones.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 11:24 AM on November 30, 2008


If it's AQ, that means they're still capable of innovative attacks on civilians at a place of their choosing.

What would it take for them not to be capable of this? I mean consider the "Beltway Sniper". Here we have a guy who was a few cards shy of a deck, but managed to paralyze Washington DC with a rifle and an old Chevy.

To answer my own question: investigation and intelligence. But those aren't as impressive as a jet fighter or a tank.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 11:28 AM on November 30, 2008


foxy_hedgehog: news agencies are reporting that Azam Amir Kasab, the only terrorist taken alive, was told to target Israelis (and thus Chabad House), but the biggest target was American and British citizens.

Take that as ye will.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 12:12 PM on November 30, 2008


This is not to say they were SUCCESSFUL at targeting citizens: I'd assume a large part of the plan was "kill indiscriminately," but the secondary goal was "kill Americans and British citizens to get media coverage," which worked pretty well.

One of the few non-Israeli/Jewish news sources that mentions Azam's statement that Chabad House was targeted.

I don't know how much of Kasab's statement was, er, compelled, however.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 12:19 PM on November 30, 2008


The Rabbi and his wife's child saved by their nanny.
posted by gman at 1:55 PM on November 30, 2008


Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg with his child (video).
posted by gman at 2:00 PM on November 30, 2008


That's quite an inflammatory assertion.

Asserting that Islamists targeted Israelis and Jews is "inflammatory" these days?
posted by Krrrlson at 2:41 PM on November 30, 2008


That's quite an inflammatory assertion. Can you clarify your sources that show that the House was specifically targeted, and targeted for this reason?

Would this help? The good Rabbi and his wife were tortured on the 26th itself, in ways the doctor says is beyond description. As I mentioned, they had reconn-ed the building for months; there's quite a bit of evidence to suggest that they had even set up a safe-house somewhere close (or within the residential complex itself).

This is most definitely an attack on India and Indians foremost. The Taj and the CST (the train terminus) were all iconic buildings for Mumbai; while I generally dislike analogies, imagine if, say, the Waldorf-Astoria and Grand Central were taken over by snipers running wild. All I'm saying is, _in addition to_ to all the other attacks (and remember, there were ten targets), that they specifically targetted the Chabad House is, sadly, quite apparent.
posted by the cydonian at 6:34 PM on November 30, 2008


the cydonian: god, that shakes me up. To think 172 to 200 people died so horribly...
posted by flibbertigibbet at 9:30 PM on November 30, 2008


Oh, damnit. I just learned that in addition to everything else the Holtzberg's did, they had already lost one child to Tay-Sachs, and their second child was hospitalized in Israel while they were in Mumbai. Their third child was Moshe.

They left their kid to spread Yiddishkeit. My god, the devotion to a cause...
posted by flibbertigibbet at 9:38 PM on November 30, 2008


Thanks, flibbertigibbet- that link cleared that up.

Krrrlson- yes, without any sourcing or documentation, asserting that Jews and a Jewish organization were specifically targeted is inflammatory.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 1:29 AM on December 1, 2008


It was common knowledge that the terrorists were Islamists; if the concept of Islamist terrorists targeting Jewish organizations is "inflammatory" to you, despite being a virtual statistical certainly on Earth in 2008, then you are either delusional or you have an agenda.
posted by Krrrlson at 11:00 AM on December 1, 2008


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