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Monday, January 25, 2010

Like a box of chocolates...

Dinner at the Mumbai Chabad house on Shabbat is a very Forrest Gumpian experience in that you really never know what you are gonna get in terms of company.

This past Friday night I found myself sitting next to /across from two Members of Knesset and the Israeli Consul General (stationed in Mumbai and her family).  There were also a lot of students, post-army pack-packers, and assorted businessmen spread around the gigantic table... and of course the requisite friendly Chabadniks.  But the dinner discussion was even more lively than usual due to the addition of some political primary sources to the mix.

It didn't hurt the liveliness of the table talk that one of the MKs was from Kadima and the other from Israel Beteinu.  :-)

On a sadder note, after several trips to Mumbai since the attack, I finally got up the nerve to visit Nariman House, the site of the original Chabad House.  Having left india just a few days before the attack, I wrestled for months with a minor case of survivor's guilt.  And when I came back to Mumbai afterwards, I just couldn't bring myself to go have a look.

But since I was going to be in the Colaba Market (in which Narriman House is located) picking up some gifts, I decided I really had to go put my ghosts to rest.

As I turned the corner onto the narrow street where the former Chabad building sits, the first thing that caught my eye was a series of bullet holes on the wall of a bakery across the street.  Each bullet hole was circled in red paint... and above them on the wall was the following hand-painted message in English and Hindi:

Chabad 001

Taped on the gate of the house is the following note:

Chabad 002
                                     [click to embiggen]

The Hebrew says (roughly) :

Beit Chabad Mumbai Shalom

We are currently operating in a different location.

Please write your name and email address in the guest book that is held by the guard.

Our email address is....

For information or to make a donation visit www...

Thank you, Yossi.

Clearly, while they want to make Jews feel welcome and direct them to the new (temporary) location, they are being very cautious not to publicize the address.  So if you want to visit, you sort of have to be able to work out the Hebrew... and you have to contact them via email so they can call you to speak to you before telling you how to get there.

Nariman house itself still sits locked up and under 24 hour guard.  The Chabad organization is still fund-raising to restore it, but it isn't clear whether the Indian government will make it easy.  Apparently there is a prevailing sentiment in political circles here that Chabad was the primary target in the attack and had acted as a magnet for the terrorists.   This is the same logic that is widespread in Europe which posits that Israel's presence is the biggest obstacle to peace and stability in the region.

The Indian Government has even gone so far as to deny the request of the current Chabad couple to have their visas renewed, forcing them to return to Israel for the time being until things sort themselves out.  while they are away, a rotating crew of Lubavitch students is holding down the fort at the make-shift Chabad house... welcoming a mixed lot of local and traveling Jews every day of the week.

Needless to say, donations to Chabad of Mumbai are always appreciated.

Posted by David Bogner on January 25, 2010 | Permalink

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The Chabad emissary from Mumbai and associate were collecting in the Gush Etzion area last week. Hope they made a good amount to keep the Chabad House going.

Posted by: shelley | Jan 25, 2010 3:47:44 PM

IMO, in the end, the Indian government will permit the restoration. Things, as you obviously know, work differently there. I think they are being pragmatic, allowing time to pass and for the things that work differently to work. They won't allow the terrorists the victory that denying restoration would give them. jmio.

Posted by: Kae Gregory | Jan 25, 2010 8:45:13 PM

We should have a sign like that on the old building near Safra Sq Jerusalem. It should point out that the bullet holes are from Jordanian snipers when that was the border between Israel and Jordan.

Posted by: batya | Jan 26, 2010 5:37:23 AM

Thank you, David, for linking to the Chabad Mumbai Donation page.

Posted by: chava | Jan 28, 2010 11:31:54 AM

David, given the recent spate of security threats to the country, the Indian government is probably trying to discourage the 're-settlement' of Chabad House for the safety of its members because, unlike the official Israeli establishments in the country, Chabad House is sitting duck (and not being part of the administration, the Government is not entitled to provide it security). Anybody who tells you that Chabad House was mainly responsible for attracting 26/11 attacks on Bombay is resorting to the simplistic view that local government and people, even if not anti-Semitic, dont welcome the presence of Jews amongst them because they attract violence to the region. The Indian media and people believe that Chabad House and the other institutions were attacked because they were perceived as common enemies of the Ummah (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ummah)(establishments symbolic of 'Zionism' and the 'economic might of India'). This trend is not surprising because Indians have seen the increasing Islamisation of the Indo-Pak conflict, which was originally a political conflict, in the last two decades.

Posted by: Sonal, Bombay | Feb 1, 2010 1:41:00 PM

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