Prime ministers Viktor Orbán of Hungary and Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel visited the Dohány Street synagogue on Wednesday evening at the invitation of the Federation of Jewish Communities in Hungary (Mazsihisz).
Addressing the meeting, Orbán said that Israel and Central Europe, Israel and Hungary conceive a future in which they are connected by important things, such as love of their country and nation.
“They conceive a future in which they are connected by self-defence against external threats, the fight against terrorism, modern technology, innovation and research, trade and investment, as well as deep cultural links. They conceive a future in which they are connected by mutual respect,” he said.
Orbán stressed the need to halt the spread of anti-Semitism in Europe, the en masse importation of intolerance to the continent, and to convince the European Union to recognise and respect Israel’s efforts and sacrifices that are defending Europe, too.
If extremist, militant terrorist groups gain control over the Middle East, Europe will have to face further invasions, he said, adding that there is a close link between the security of Israel and that of Europe, including Hungary.
Orbán said that Hungary’s Jewish community was undergoing a renaissance and expressed hope that Hungarian Jews would freely unfold their creative energies.
Netanyahu said his current visit would be followed by several ones, including the Visegrád Four premiers’ visit to Jerusalem next year.
This is an important development, suggesting that the Jewry is occupying its worthy place among the nations, he said.
Netanyahu hailed that Orbán had openly spoken about the crimes committed by former Hungarian governments against the Jewish community. He also thanked Orbán for speaking up against the attempts to question Israel’s legitimacy.
Orbán said on Tuesday that Hungary had committed a crime in the second world war by failing to protect its Jewish citizens from the Holocaust.
Mazsihisz head András Heisler said that Hungary’s Jewish community, the biggest one in central Europe, has always promoted and will continue to promote Hungarian-Israel friendship. He added, however, that while Hungary and Israel are maintaining excellent relations, there are still some phenomena that disturb the life of the community.
“Hungary has made an ambiguous approach to the Holocaust”, the responsibility of its then government and regent, Heisler said.
He added, however, that Orbán’s Tuesday statement was a “step in the right direction”.
Heisler criticised the government’s recent billboard campaign which he said “generated fear among Hungarian Jews”.
It is a good news that the Hungarian government protects the Jewish community but the most efficient way to protect it would be “promoting the emergence of a Hungarian society that is free from hatred.”
Turning to Netanyahu, Heisler said that Mazsihisz had been shocked by the Israeli foreign ministry’s approach to the billboard campaign. After Israel’s ambassador to Budapest called on the government to remove the billboards in question, the ministry retracted his statement, a move which Heisler said “caused pain to the community”.
Featured image: MTI