Mumbai terror orphan launches Israel's independence day

Moshe Holtzberg with Sandra Samuel

Moshe Holtzberg with Sandra Samuel

The orphaned son of the Israeli couple killed during the Mumbai terror attack in 2009 helped open Israel's Independence Day celebrations.

Moshe Holtzberg, now four, was at the official ceremony at Jerusalem's Mount Herzl last night to light a torch marking 63 years since Israel's birth.

He was accompanied by his grandparents and Indian nanny Sandra Samuel, who risked her life to protect her charge after terrorists laid siege to the Chabad centre. Ms Samuel was given honorary Israeli citizenship last year, likely to lead to permanent citizenship.

Leading Israeli politicians were also present at the ceremony, which took place immediately after the close of Israel's national day of remembrance for its war dead.

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin told the audience that Israelis should be "filled with pride today for what we have managed to build here with sweat and hard work".

He added: "We must not belittle what we have achieved.

"Israel of 2011 is a Jewish democratic state, a shining beacon in the heart of the oppressing and cruel Middle East."

The celebrations were interrupted when the brother of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit staged a protest. Yoel Shalit and his girlfriend ran on stage holding signs calling for the soldier, now 24, to be remembered.

At an event on Tuesday morning, President Shimon Peres recalled "the historic miracle" of 1948 and the achievement of David Ben-Gurion in proclaiming Israel's independence.

Speaking on Tuesday morning, Mr Peres said: "We proved we can create a budding garden out of obstinate ground."

    Last updated: 1:29pm, May 10 2011