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Mourners Bury Israelis Tortured Before Mumbai Executions

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Dec. 2: An ultra-Orthodox mourner stands between the bodies of Rabbi Gavriel Noach Holtzberg, 29, left, and his wife Rivkah, 28, right.AP

Thousands of Orthodox Jewish mourners prayed and wept Tuesday before the shrouded bodies of Israeli victims of the Mumbai carnage, vowing the tragedy will only strengthen their beliefs and fuel the efforts to spread their teachings around the world.

The ceremony was broadcast on TV and attended by Israeli leaders, adding to the atmosphere of national mourning as the country buried the six Jews killed in the assault on a Jewish center in the distant Indian city.

Jewish victims made up a disproportionate number of the foreigners killed after 10 Muslim fanatics stormed a series of sites in the Indian financial capital, torturing their captors before they were bound together and killed, the Daily Telegraph reported.

Click here for photos.

The six died when gunmen struck Chabad House, the Mumbai headquarters of the Jewish Chabad-Lubavitch movement, last Wednesday. After a two-day standoff and an Indian commando raid, four Israelis, an American Jew and a Mexican woman lay dead.

A crowd gathered at Kfar Chabad, the movement's Israel headquarters, to mourn Rabbi Gavriel Noach Holtzberg, 29, and his 28-year-old wife, Rivka. The two were outreach envoys dispatched to Mumbai as part of the movement's attempt to bring its brand of Judaism to Jews across the world, running an open house aimed mainly at Jewish travelers and merchants.

The couple left a 2-year-old son, Moshe, who was rescued by his Indian nanny. Rivka was six months pregnant when she was killed, a Chabad spokesman, Avraham Berkowitz, said Tuesday.

The condition of bodies recovered from the Nariman Building, which housed the Orthodox Chabad-Lubavitch retreat, horrified doctors, the Telegraph reported.

"I have seen so many dead bodies in my life, and was traumatized," a mortician told the Telegraph. "It was apparent that most of the dead were tortured. What shocked me were the telltale signs showing clearly how the hostages were executed in cold blood."

Some were found with their throats slit and others were executed in a line with a bullet to the forehead.

The crowd of thousands at their funeral included Israel's president, Shimon Peres, the country's chief rabbis and other top government officials.

Moshe Kotlarsky, a Chabad rabbi from New York, delivered an impassioned eulogy, describing the young couple as dedicated people who would stop at nothing to help others.

"We will answer the terrorists," he vowed, his voice shaking, naming his weapon — the teachings of God.

He pledged to rebuild the Mumbai center and name it after the Holtzbergs. Chabad operates thousands such outreach centers around the world.

The Holtzbergs' bodies — hers wrapped in a shroud, his in a prayer shawl — rested on benches on a dais nearby. Coffins are not used in Jewish funerals in Israel.

Their small son, who returned to Israel on Monday with the nanny and the bodies of his parents, was not present. At a tearful ceremony held at a Mumbai synagogue before their flight, the boy called out for his mother in a scene that was repeatedly broadcast on Israeli TV.

"You don't have a mother who will hug you and kiss you," Rabbi Kotlarsky said during a eulogy that alternated between Hebrew and English. But the community will take care of the boy, he vowed: "You are the child of all of Israel."

After the memorial ceremony at Kfar Chabad, the bodies were taken to Jerusalem in a procession for burial.

The only other surviving member of the family, Moshe's brother, has Tay-Sachs, a terminal genetic disease, and is institutionalized in Israel. The Holtzbergs' eldest son died of the illness.

The Holtzbergs lived in Israel and Brooklyn before they moved to Mumbai in 2003. Rabbi Holtzberg also had U.S. citizenship.

Addressing the crowd, Peres called on the world to unite in the fight against terrorism. He singled out Iran, which supports anti-Israel militant groups and whose president has called for Israel's destruction.

"If the entire world doesn't join together as one man and say 'enough,' then the world is in danger. This is a plague that is difficult to stop," he said.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak, opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel's two chief rabbis were among the thousands who attended.

Most of the people were bearded men in the black suits and black fedoras of Chabad members. Women gathered behind a yellow metal partition, in accordance with Orthodox customs requiring separation of the sexes.

The grimness of the funerals, and the national attention they received, was deepened by the conviction that the victims died because they were Jews.

"It's a very difficult feeling because we know this was targeted against us," said Eliahu Tzadok, 41, who attended the funeral of another victim, 38-year-old Leibish Teitelbaum, in Jerusalem. "It's a continuation of acts against the Jewish people when the Jewish people did nothing to deserve it."

Teitelbaum, a U.S. citizen who lived in Jerusalem, was a member of Satmar, an ultra-Orthodox sect that does not accept Israel as a Jewish state. Several thousand mourners, most of them bearded men with sidelocks and garbed in long black coats and black hats, packed the main square, narrow alleys and rooftops of Mea Shearim, a large Orthodox neighborhood in Jerusalem, for his funeral.

Death notices plastered the neighborhood's billboards and walls, reading "May God avenge them." Loudspeakers carried the sounds of wailing mourners reciting prayers from the Book of Psalms.

A fourth victim, 50-year-old Norma Shvarzblat Rabinovich of Mexico, had planned to immigrate to Israel this week to join two of her children.

The two other victims were Yocheved Orpaz, 60, who had been traveling in India with a daughter and grandchildren, and Bentzion Chroman, 28, who like Teitelbaum, was a supervisor of kosher food.

Click here to read more on this story from the Telegraph.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.