Celebrating Hungarian Freedom and Democracy

 

Recounting the vivid history of Hungary’s road to freedom is fascinating. On Thursday evening his Excellency Ambassador Andor Nagy and his wife hosted a dynamic reception at the ambassadorial residence in Herzlia to celebrate Hungarian independence and freedom; something to celebrate, in the light of this modern nation’s history.

 

Honoring Hungary, her independence and her diplomatic representation to the State of Israel were leaders of the diplomatic corps and of Hungarian and Israeli society. Among those present (in no particular order if ranking) were his excellency Ambassador Ilan Mor, Israel’s envoy to Budapest, and Hungary’s Justice Minister Professor Dr. László Trócsányi (both of whom came to Israel especially to attend this event), Ambassador Oded Ben-Hur (Senior Diplomatic Advisor to the Knesset), Adv. Orit Noked (former Israeli Minister of Agriculture), Rishon le Zion’s Mayor Dov Zur (Rishon & Budapest are sister cities), Ubong A. Johnny, Economic & Political Counselor of the Embassy of Nigeria, Zvi Herman (presently director of the Center for International Agriculture & Development Corporation), Meron Reuben (Israel’s Chief of State Protocol), Professor Gady Golan (president of the Ort Hermelin Academic College) and ambassadors, consuls and attachés from a wide range of embassies and consulates. A glittering gathering indeed.

 

Generous Hungarian-style snacks and beverages smoothed the way into what became a congenial gathering. Gentle Hungarian melodies by Tibi Golan and his ensemble added a pleasant note to the atmosphere.

 

The formal part of the evening began with a brief welcome by the host Ambassador (who also demonstrated his Hebrew skills with humor) and then a presentation of the national anthem of Hungary followed by that of Israel.

 

After his welcoming comments, Ambassador Nagy spared no words on the horrors of the blood thirsty wave of terror in Israel. “As diplomats we are guests in your country, but naturally we are affected by these terrible events, too. I personally stumbled upon a stabbing attack last Monday in Jerusalem, walking on Yafo Street… All of a sudden people were running and shouting in panic around me some 15 meters from the light-rail station. I heard shooting and took shelter in a shop along with other people so I know what I am talking about… We condemn in the strongest possible terms violence directed against innocent people and we believe Israel has a fundamental right to maintain law and order. This kind of random violence will not result in anything other than more hardship, harm and insecurity.”

 

After a short introduction reviewing the professor’s impressive political and scholastic background, Ambassador Nagy then called upon guest of honor Professor Trócsányi to address the gathering.

 

His emotional opening words touched our hearts: “It is a great honor and pleasure to be here. I am filled with emotions. I stand in front of you not only as a politician, but also as a Christian. I am a Hungarian. I am also a European, son of the Jewish-Christian civilization. In Israel, in the Holy Land, I feel like I came home.”

 

The professor continued with an outline of Hungarian-Jewish history: “… We not only have similarities, but we have ties, strong ties which connect our nations: I talk about the long-time Jewish presence in Hungary. We have had flourishing times … Many Jewish people were among the most appreciated members of the society. They changed their native German or Yiddish languages for Hungarian ... Jewish Hungarians stood out in business, law, sciences, arts and literature … the Second World War came with all its horrors, and Hungary has lost many lives again, among them 600 thousand Jewish citizens, the most of whom have been deported to death camps. As our President of the Republic, János Áder said last year in a memorial speech: Auschwitz is the largest Hungarian cemetery … what makes unbearable times bearable is hope.

 

“We have to pay tribute to all the Hungarians – many of whom were Jewish – who were in the forefront of the fight for democracy and national independence.

 

“Hungary is a different country now … after breaking from the Soviet political bonds, the relationship between Hungary and the State of Israel could be rewritten … Hungary is home to the third biggest Jewish population in the European Union. We say ‘yes’ to Jewish presence and we say welcome to a Jewish renaissance on-going in my country … My government is proud and happy to renovate synagogues all over the country. I recently opened a Jewish art festival at the synagogue of Szeged, along with my friend Mr. Ilan Mor, ambassador of Israel to Hungary, who is with us this evening.

 

“I am proud that my government has a zero tolerance policy against racism and anti-Semitism. In Hungary, Holocaust denial and hate speech are crimes under the Penal Code adopted during the Orbán government. We say ‘no’ to terrorism that resolves nothing but brings unnecessary suffering. We wish for the sake of all of us, a lasting peace in the Middle East.”

 

Professor Trócsányi made reference to the “unprecedented migrant crisis” presently affecting Hungary & Europe. He also referred to the dark period when Hungary was under Soviet control and could not choose its diplomatic friends … “We, Hungarians, Israelis, came a long way in a short period of time. My message is one of peace and friendship. And of hope that our friendship will grow further. I think we need it more than ever in this troubled world.
Shalom al Israel, Shalom al Hungaria!”

 

Responding on behalf of, and bringing greetings from, the Government and the people of Israel, was Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Internal Affairs, Silvan Shalom. The Minister extended his thanks and congratulations to the Ambassador and to Hungary on the occasion of the National Day He continued: “Israel-Hungary relations are good and friendly, and are based, among other things, on the memory of the Holocaust, the existence of a large Jewish community in Hungary as well as a large Hungarian community in Israel. In addition to our positive relations in all areas, including economics and culture, we have ongoing political dialog at the various levels, including senior officials. We look forward to the visit of Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Péter Szijjártó, in November, when we will have the opportunity to jointly discuss issues that are currently on the agenda.”

 

Minister Shalom mentioned state visits and cultural exchanges, strengthening the warm bilateral diplomatic ties. This is not to forget that: “We still face numerous challenges in our bilateral relations: deepening cooperation on economic, academic, cultural and security matters. I am sure that both embassies will continue their efforts to realize these goals – to the benefit of both countries, Hungary and Israel.

 

“Mr. Ambassador, please convey our heartfelt congratulations to your government and to the Hungarian People on the occasion of your National Day. May Hungary enjoy peace and prosperity, and may the ties of friendship between Hungary and Israel become ever stronger in the years ahead”.

 

Guests were then invited to partake of a grand buffet dinner consisting largely of Hungarian specialties. For many of those it was the first time being exposed to real “Hungarian goulash” and “klops”, and not to mention the famous dessert pastry “Kürtőskalács” (kurtos to the initiated).

 

Nobody went home hungry.

 

 Photo Silvia Golan