The story is much simpler than people tend to think. Two of the Jews murdered in Mumbai are a Chabad-Lubavitch couple, Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg. He’s from Brooklyn, while she’s from Afula. They lived in Thailand and later in India for five years. They were there on a mission on behalf of Chabad; on behalf of Judaism.
Just like any other good Chabadniks, they chose to dedicate themselves to other Jews, most of them Israelis traveling in Mumbai. Their lives, and in this case their deaths too, are yet another link in the longtime tradition of Chabad Hassidim – namely, to spread Judaism to every corner of the world; to bring a little Torah, compassion, and solidarity to any site where Jews can be found at. In order to achieve that end, they gave up on having leisure time and privacy, turning their home into a lively Jewish embassy every day, the whole day.
Chabad, after we put aside internal Jewish arguments regarding the right way to follow God, is the essence of Jewish mutual responsibility. It is the root of caring for others and of welcoming guests with open arms. There is no other movement that boasts people who are organized like that and who are willing to dedicate their lives in order to bring others closer to Judaism. At times we get upset when a Chabadnik attempts to convince us to lay tefillin (“thanks, I already did it at the office,”) but for many of us they mark our Jewish corner, in Nepal or in Venice, in Bangkok and in Paris.
Rivka and Gabi Holtzberg were emissaries on behalf of all of us, even if we don’t have the rabbi’s picture hanging on our wall.
And on the other hand, we have the murderers. They too, in a very different way, are emissaries. They are the emissaries of Islam 2008. We can babble endlessly about them being only a small group that does not represent true Islam. These evil forces have excellent spokespersons in the guilt-ridden West. However, the dozens of Muslim terrorists who massacred hundreds of Indians and Western tourists are yet another example of the bad winds within Islam.
Giant terror organizations such as al-Qaeda, and immense Islamic Brotherhood movements and Jihad groups are not marginal. They constitute true danger in their own countries, because they have a real hold among the world’s one billion Muslims. Frustration, zealotry, ignorance, and hatred for humanity motivate the Jihadists from Mumbai to Gaza and from New York to Somalia. These despicable Mujahidin also view themselves as the emissaries of God and of their religion. However, they spread their message with rifles and hand grenades.
A matter of temper
After all, in the history of humanity we have not yet seen a case where a group of Chabadniks took over a bus or hotel and held hostages. No other Jewish group, be it religious or secular, tends to express its frustrations via such violent storms. It’s a matter of temper. Our Jews, headed by the Chabadniks, spread their religion in wholly different ways: Tefillin, Shabbat candles, and even the traditional “why don’t you come over for Shabbat dinner.” They boast complete dedication, but not suicidal tendencies. They are willing to die in order to sanctify God’s name, but they are unwilling to kill in order to sanctify God’s name.
This is a simple story, because this is a war pitting the good guys against the bad guys. Even the arguments over “occupation” and “territories” around here are merely a small, even if important, front of the Islamic threat. After September 11th, the world suddenly noticed that almost anywhere horrifying terror acts take place, the murderers are Muslim Jihadists. The good guys suddenly realized that not all Muslims are terrorists, yet almost all terrorists are Muslim.
There are good Jews and good Muslims, just like there are violent and evil ones. The matter at hand is not the nature or character of individuals, but rather, the forces and undercurrents below the visible reality. The random encounter between the emissaries of Islamist Jihad and Rivka and Gavriel Holtzberg, the Jewish emissaries, is not so random after all. It is yet another case where the emissaries of barbarity hurt everything that is kind and good; this is yet another lethal mission by the dark fanatics of Islam that aimed to eliminate the noble mission of the dedicated and kind-hearted. In order to succeed in this battle, we must realize that this is yet another struggle between the sons of light and the sons of darkness.
And light shall win.