Israel begins burying victims of India attack

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The Independent Online

Israelis today began burying the six Jews killed in the murder spree in the Indian city of Mumbai, the grimness of the occasion deepened by the conviction that the victims were targeted because of their religion.

The six died when gunmen struck the Chabad House, the Mumbai headquarters of the ultra-Orthodox Lubavitch movement, last Wednesday. After a two-day standoff, four Israelis, an American Jew and a Mexican Jewish woman were dead. The Mexican woman had planned to immigrate to Israel this week.

Several thousand ultra-Orthodox mourners, most of them bearded men with sidecurls garbed in long black coats and black hats, packed the main square and narrow alleys of Mea Shearim, a large religious neighborhood in Jerusalem, for the funeral of Leibish Teitelbaum. A US citizen who lived in Jerusalem, Teitelbaum was in Mumbai last week supervising the preparation of kosher food.

Loudspeakers blared, "May God avenge them."

"It's a very difficult feeling because we know this was targeted against us," said Eliahu Tzadok, 41, of Jerusalem. "It's a continuation of acts against the Jewish people when the Jewish people did nothing to deserve it."

The other victims included the 29-year-old rabbi who ran the Chabad House, Gavriel Holtzberg, and his 28-year-old wife, Rivkah.

A memorial ceremony for the couple was scheduled later Tuesday at Kfar Chabad, the movement's center in Israel. Hours before the ceremony, about 200 mourners gathered at the town's main building, where the coffins were placed in a small room. Relatives entered the room, while other mourners read the Book of Psalms outside.

The couple's 2-year-old son, Moshe, who was rescued by his Indian caretaker, returned with the woman and the bodies of his parents on Monday.

In an emotional scene before their flight Monday, the boy repeatedly cried for his mother at a tearful memorial for his parents at a Mumbai synagogue. His heart-rending cries were played over and over again on Israeli TV stations ahead of the funerals.

The couple had lived in Israel and Brooklyn before they moved to Mumbai in 2003. Rabbi Holtzberg also had U.S. citizenship.

Teitelbaum belonged to a prominent family in the small, ultraOrthodox Satmar sect, which is ideologically opposed to the state of Israel.

His family informed the Israeli government that they wanted no state involvement or symbols at his funeral, an official in the government ministry in charge of state ceremonies said Monday. But when Teitelbaum's casket was taken off the plane from Mumbai, it was draped with an Israeli flag.

Shmuel Poppenheim, who studied with Teitelbaum in his youth, told Israel Radio that "disturbed his family very much."

But the minister in charge of state ceremonies, Jacob Edery, told the radio station that no formal request from the family had been received.

Later Tuesday, there was to be a state ceremony for the victims at the residence of President Shimon Peres.