Netanyahu meets Hungary’s Jewish leaders at Budapest synagogue


BUDAPEST (JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to Jewish community leaders at the Dohanyi Synagogue in Budapest.

Netanyahu arrived at the synagogue in downtown Budapest, the headquarters of the Hungarian Jewish community, on Wednesday evening to unprecedented security. In addition to Hungarian police officers visible throughout the area where the synagogue is located, surrounding streets and squares were closed to the public, which also prevented tourists from visiting the city’s old Jewish Quarter area.

Netanyahu’s black Mercedes car rolled into the back courtyard of the Dohányi synagogue precisely at 8 p.m., where Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, and Andras Heisler, president of Mazsihisz/the Federation of the Hungarian Jewish Communities greeted Netanyahu and his wife.

Robert Frolich, the Chief Rabbi of the Dohányi Synagogue led the guests inside the synagogue building and showed them around. After a short walk inside of the synagogue the Israeli prime minister accompanied by Orban and Heisler paid tribute at the ’Emmanuel Memorial Tree’ remembering the Hungarian Jewish victims of the Holocaust. The memorial is in the form of a weeping willow tree, where the names and dates of the Holocaust victims are engraved into the silver leaves of the tree. The Emanuel memorial was named after the father of the late American actor, Tony Curtis, whose Jewish family once lived in Hungary.

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In his speech, Heisler emphasized that “the relationship between the Jews and the Hungarian government is good, but there are always disturbing things, like the issue of the unpaid Jewish compensation, or restitution, and also the recent propaganda-campaign provoking anti-Semitism.”

Due to the recent billboard campaign against American billionaire Hungarian citizen Geroge Soros, which has fomented some new anti-Semitism, that Hungarian Jews started to fear, he said.

Heisler praised Orban for telling reporters on Tuesday that he would see to it that the country’s Jews are protected. “It is OK what Prime Minister Orban said, that they will defend us, Hungarian Jews, but  it would be even better if there were no hatred in the Hungarian society towards us,” he said, adding: “We want to be proud Hungarian Jews, whose majority want to live and stay here

Heisler said the country’s Jews “felt as if a cold shower was poured on us, when Prime Minister Netanyahu ordered the withdrawal of the Israeli ambassador’s condemnation of the (anti-Soros) poster campaign.  He called on Netanyahu “to help to enforce the Diaspora!  We want to support Israel being proud Jews at the same time”.

Orban emphasized the importance of the meeting earlier Tuesday with the other three Central European prime ministers, known as the V4 group.

Orban said that “Jews who live in Hungary, they are part of the Hungarian nation, noting that the Hungarian Jewish community is the second largest in Europe. Orban also said that “Where Herzl was born, here very near to the place where we are now, – Herzl’s birthplace was originally in the vicinity of the present building of the Dohányi synagogue.  Orban praised Netanyahu’s idea presented at the V4 meeting to set up a regional anti-terrorist training center with the help and training of Israel.

In attendance at the meeting were Jewish leaders and from throughout the county, as well as Dr. János Vilmos Fonagy, the only Jewish Hungarian government minister and the mayor of Budapest.

Netanyahu in his address invoked Theodor Herzl, who was born in Budapest, referring to the spiritual father of Zionism as the “Modern Moses of Israel.”

He praised Orban for organizing the Visegrad meeting and thanked his Hungarian counterpart for standing up for Israel the international political arena, He also said he appreciated Orban’s words the previous day, in which he spoke out against previous Hungarian governments involvement with the Nazi regime.

Some in the Jewish audience rejected Netanyahu’s praise of Orban, who a few weeks ago just praised Gov. Micklos Horthy, the war- time collaborator with Adolf Hitler, who made possible the deportation of = Hungarian Jews and sent half a million Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz. There was no mention of the words and no regret expressed.

“I liked Heisler’s speech, but I was not impressed by the speeches of Orban and Netanyahu,” one Jewish leader told JTA.  said after the meeting to JTA one of the leaders of the Jewish “Unfortunately both prime ministers did not pay attention and did not reflect on any of the suggestions of President Heisler.

Netanyahu also met Wednesday afternoon with the Hapoel Beersheba soccer team, visiting  from Israel, which played the same day in Budapest against the Honvéd/Defence Football Club of Hungary. Netanyahu played with the Israeli team, during their training in Budapest just before their game started.

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