Terrorists targeted Jews to avenge atrocities on Palestinians

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Bloodstained prayer books, upturned tables and chairs, and blown-up walls serve as a silent testament to the horror at the Chabad House in Mumbai — the site of a terror attack that left six Jews dead.

The only Mumbai terrorist caught alive, Azam Amir Kasab, told an Indian newspaper that he and his colleagues were sent to target Israelis.

Kasab, a Pakistani, told Indian police that the terrorists targeted the Chabad outreach center, known as the Nariman House, because it was frequented by Israelis, the Times of India reported Nov. 30. Israelis were targeted to “avenge atrocities on Palestinians,” the paper reported Kasab, 21, as saying.

The Times also quoted a source as saying that some of the terrorists killed in the operation had earlier rented rooms at the Nariman House, identifying themselves as Malaysian students, in order to study the building, tucked away at the end of an alley.

Six Jews were murdered by terrorists at the Chabad center: emissaries Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg, kashrut supervisors Bentzion Chroman and Rabbi Leibish Teitlebaum, Yocheved Orpaz and Mexican citizen Norma Shvarzblat Rabinovich.

Dr. Gajanan Chawan of Mumbai’s JJ Hospital, which received the bodies of six Chabad House victims, told the Jerusalem Post on Dec. 2 that he saw the victims’ bodies and did not believe their wounds suggested they had been tortured prior to their deaths. He said that the majority of the wounds he could identify had been caused by firearms.

His comments cast doubt on other earlier reports. On Dec. 1, a morgue employee at JJ Hospital who had also seen the bodies told the Post by telephone that the bodies of the Jewish victims had a higher number of gunshot wounds than the bodies of other victims. “On the Jewish bodies, there were more injuries in numbers,” the morgue official said.

And on Nov. 30, an article posted on the Indian news Web site rediff.com cited an unnamed doctor as claiming that torture marks were evident on the hostages’ bodies. “Of all the bodies, the Israeli victims bore the maximum torture marks. … It was obvious that they were tied up and tortured before they were killed,” the doctor was quoted as saying.

The bodies of the victims were flown to Israel on Dec. 1; Israeli diplomatic efforts prevented autopsies being performed on them in accordance with religious sensitivities.

Chroman, 28, who was sent to Mumbai to serve as a kashrut observer, had stopped at the Chabad House for prayer. He is survived by his wife and three children, ages 5, 2 and 2 months.

Orpaz, 60, had traveled to India to visit her daughter and two grandchildren, who were traveling there.

Teitlebaum resided in Jerusalem’s Mea Shearim neighborhood and traveled to India as a kashrut supervisor.

Shvarzblat Rabinovich, 50, who had been traveling through India for the past two months, was not declared a victim of terrorism by Israel. Because she was a Mexican citizen and was a day away from making aliyah (she was to fly to Israel on Dec. 1 to celebrate her son’s 18th birthday), Israeli authorities said she was not eligible for the same benefits given Israeli terrorist victims.

Rabinovich’s son and daughter, who had already immigrated to Israel, are getting financial assistance — as are other Jewish and Israeli victims — from the Jewish Agency of Israel and its 6-year-old Fund for Victims of Terror.

In addition to the Jews killed at the Chabad House, Alan Scherr, 58, and his daughter Naomi, 13, both of Baltimore, were among the 19 foreigners killed in the attacks.

They were eating a late dinner in the dining room of the Oberoi hotel, nearing the end of a two-week pilgrimage to India with a group from the Synchronicity Foundation, a spiritual community in Virginia.

The Etz Chaim Center for Jewish Studies in Baltimore held a memorial service for the father and daughter Nov. 30.

Ron Kampeas of JTA, Yaakov Lappin of jpost.com, Ynetnews.com and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

Tragedy in Mumbai