Two years ago this month, terrorists murdered 170 people in Mumbai, India. Most of the deaths occurred at the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower Hotel, one of the most upscale in Mumbai. While the terrorists chose the hotel for its symbolic value, most of the victims seemed relatively randomly selected. In addition, the terrorists sought out the Chabad House, where victims were selected not at random, but because they were Jewish.
The actual attack took place November 26, 2008, but in the Jewish calendar, this week is the anniversary of the deaths of Rabbi Gavriel and Rivkah Holtzberg and the other Jews killed in the attack. Last night I attended a memorial held by the local Chabad rabbi's wife; the dominant theme was the way these two victims welcomed Jews who were traveling in the noisy, dirty, challenging city, and committed their lives to the Chabad ideology. I appreciate the meaning of the Jewish victims as martyrs for the Chabad cause; however, to me and probably to other secular Jews, the event has an extended and profound meaning, reminding us that any Jew is vulnerable to not-in-the-least dormant anti-Jewish hatred that proliferates in our world.
This week President and Mrs. Obama are the first heads of state to stay at the hotel in the 2 years since the attack, and among other things are commemorating the victims. For international diplomacy, the event has a different meaning than for Jews, of course. Obama's statement: "By striking the places where our countries and people come together those who perpetrated these horrific attacks hoped to drive us apart . . . (but) today the United States and India are working together more closely than ever to keep our people safe." (L.A. Times)