Chabad House massacre: ‘there’s an anger that such decent, kind and gentle people should have been targeted’
October 16, 2012 | Joanne Hill - Correspondent
MUMBAI-TORONTO - Minister of Natural Resources Joe Oliver struggled to describe the emotions he experienced while visiting Mumbai’s Chabad House, which was the scene of a murderous terrorist attack in November 2008.
Oliver was in India last week to meet with government officials and industry leaders about expanding trade opportunities. He made the personal decision to pay his respects at the Chabad House on Friday; it was the first time he has stood in a place “where such horrors occurred,” he said.
“I don’t know how, exactly, to describe how I felt,” said Oliver. “It just – first of all, there’s an anger that such decent, kind and gentle people should have been targeted – and targeted deliberately. The terrorists conducted 11 coordinated shooting and bombing attacks across Mumbai and they had to go some distance to [reach] this house. It’s clear that they were targeting the Jewish community.”
One of his guides told Oliver he had left the house mere minutes before the terrorists arrived. The building is still undergoing extensive repair work, Oliver said, but he was told that the hundreds of bullet holes in the ceiling and walls of the room where the terrorists were killed will be left as is. Oliver was told that Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg had shown the terrorists a Torah scroll and tried to explain that he was there to teach and help people; the terrorists responded by shooting through the scroll.
Six people were viciously murdered during the assault on the Jewish community centre: the rabbi and his wife Rivka Holtzberg, 29 and 28 respectively; Rabbi Aryeh Leibish Teitelbaum, 37; Rabbi Benzion Kruman, 28; Yocheved Orpaz, 62 and Norma Shvarzblat-Rabinovich, 50. As well, Rivka Holtzberg was five months pregnant at the time of her death. (Moshe, the two-year-old son of Rabbi and Rebbetzin Holtzberg, was hidden during the attack, and his life was saved by his nanny Sandra Samuel.)
“It’s hard to explain the depravity and hatred that would motivate and permit people to act in that way,” said Oliver. “It’s beyond reason.
“You can’t help but think of it as part of a continuity of violent acts that flow from perhaps the oldest and most pernicious hatred, which is antisemitism.”
Prime Minister Stephen Harper; Citizenship, Multiculturalism and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney; Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird; and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway Stockwell Day have all previously paid their respects at the Chabad House in Mumbai.
Although Oliver has been to India several times in the past, this was his first official visit in his capacity as natural resources minister, he said. He characterized it as “a productive week.”
Bilateral trade between India and Canada surpassed $5 billion last year and two-way investment during the same period totalled $5 billion, he said. India is well on its way to becoming the fourth largest economy in the world.
“India’s growth is significant. It’s the fourth largest energy consumer in the world. It’s looking to quintuple its energy supply within the next 25 years but it confronts a significant and growing energy deficit. So India is looking to diversify its energy sources and secure supply and Canada is looking to diversify its markets.”
At last week’s meetings, “we talked about the potential for opening up trade and investment in liquified natural gas, in oil and a whole range of other resources, including forestry products.”