Among a small group of people who gathered around the graves of 26/11 attack victims Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife Rivka on Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives on their fifth death anniversary, was a close friend who stood guard over their bodies for two days at a morgue in Mumbai to ensure that autopsies were not conducted on them.
A year after the attack, Dr Aaron Abraham, 55, followed his dead friends’ memories — and the call of their shared faith — to Israel, where he has been living ever since.
“In accordance with the Hebrew calendar, Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka’s death anniversaries were observed on November 4. Their son Moshe, who is now seven years old and lives with his mother’s parents Rabbi Shimon and Yehudit Rosenberg, was driven down from Afula to the Mount of Olives by his grandparents,” Dr Abraham said.
“Gavriel’s parents were also there, as was Moshe’s nanny Sandra. My wife and I also drove down to the cemetery, and we all prayed together.”
After his two mentors and spiritual guides were killed in the attack, Abraham — who had been named Bhagirath Mohandas Prasad by his Hindu parents — migrated to Israel with his family in November 2009. He now lives in Kiryat Arba, an Israeli settlement on the outskirts of Hebron on the West Bank.
In Mumbai, Abraham was an intensivist at Breach Candy Hospital, and had become the Holtzbergs’s family doctor. Since receiving a licence to practise in Israel in 2010, he has been working with the general intensive care department of a hospital in Tel Aviv.
“After Gabi and Rivka’s deaths, there was nothing left for us in Mumbai. Since we were practising Judaism, it made sense for us to migrate to Israel, where we have been readily accepted,” Abraham said.
Having followed the Jewish faith devoutly for over 15 years, Abraham had been struggling to arrange a formal conversion in India. On the Holtzbergs’s first death anniversary, Abraham and his wife Ruth Malka (originally Rani), 50, were formally converted to Judaism, and remarried in a Jewish ceremony at the Cave of Patriarchs in Hebron.
The couple’s son Samuel, 22, recently completed a two-year conscription with the Israeli Defence Force, and now hopes to study law in the US. Their elder daughter Sarah, 19, is Israel’s Thai boxing