Rabbi Shimon Rosenberg and his wife Yehudit of Afula are praying for the wellbeing of their daughter Rivka, who has been taken hostage by terrorists in the Indian city of Mumbai, along with her husband, Chabad emissary Gavriel Holtzberg.
According to several reports, both Holtzberg and his wife are unconscious. Their two-year-old son was reportedly released earlier Thursday along with his nanny.
Ynet has learned that the Holtzberg couple lost its eldest son, three-year-old Mandy, only two and a half years ago.
On Thursday afternoon, Rivka's parents left for India to take care of their grandson, who was released by his captors and is currently at the home of the Israeli consulate's security officer.
The couple left for Mumbai accompanied by members of the ZAKA rescue organization and two relatives. They were expected to fly to Istanbul on a private plane and continue to India on a direct flight in order to arrive before Shabbat.
Before embarking on their painful trip, the parents spoke to Israeli Consul-General Orna Sagiv, who informed them that their grandson was transferred to the security officer's home.
Rivka's father said he and his wife were flying to India "first of all in order to take the little boy, Moshe Zvi. We hope to receive good news and to meet Rivki and her husband."
Rivka's three sisters remained at home, forced to deal with the grave situation. "Although Rivki is 10 years older than me, our connection is brave and warm," said sister Haiki. "We talk all the time. They have a wonderful boy, a child of light, and I'm waiting to see him and them. I don’t know what to think now. These are difficult moments."
Earlier, Rivka's mother told Ynet of her feelings. "I'm in the midst of prayers and expecting salvation now. These are difficult moments for a mother. The last time I spoke to her was the day before yesterday. I wasn't worried. There were no signs. What happened could have happened anywhere.
"I believe the building was secured. I want to travel to India to be close to my grandson, to my children. We are in constant touch with Gabby's parents, who live in the US."
Chabad offices in Mumbai (Archive photo: Shturem)
Yehudit was filled with pride when she talks of her daughters and son-in-law's work over the past few years.
"They were busy hosting, feeding, listening to Israelis who are there. A warm corner of the Land of Israel. It's true that for them it meant being away from their family, but this is what Chabad emissaries do across the world."
After hearing of what had happened on Wednesday evening, the couple began calling friends in Israel
and worldwide, including Chabad emissaries and senior officials in the United States in order to gather some information.
"Naturally, we did not sleep all night," said Shimon. "We are anxious and hope to hear good news. When we heard the child was rescued we breathed with relief, but we're very worried about Rivki and Gavriel's condition."
They tried to contact their relatives all night, but to no avail. "Yesterday morning we spoke to her on the phone, as we did every morning. In the evening, while I was delivering a Kaballah course to women, they told us we should switch on the radio immediately.
"We tried to call them and contact them on the internet, but the entire communication appeared to have collapsed. We called the Foreign Ministry's situation room, but they couldn't update us on anything. Only in the early morning hours we were informed that the terrorists are holding them hostage," the father said.
Relatives and friends have flocked to the family home in Afula, some reciting Psalms and others trying to help Yehudit and Shimon organize the trip to India.
Rabbi David Grossman, whose wife is the sister of Rivka's father, also arrived at the family home.
"I woke up the students at the Migdal Haor yeshiva and turned to thousands of other students across the country, asking them to say a prayer for the wellbeing of Rivki and Rabbi Gavriel and the six other Israelis who are with them at the Chabad office."
The Holtzberg family has been India for five years, after serving as Chabad's emissaries in Thailand.
"We knew their situation there was excellent, and we even visited them there three years ago. They were in close contact with the Consulate workers and the security officers, so we had nothing to worry about," said Rivka's father.