The centre piece of this year’s international Karmiel Dance Festival was an open-air performance of Zorba the Greek performed by the National Ballet of Hungary.
It was an outstanding artistic success, warmly received by a large crowd but was held against a troubled political backdrop due to the antisemitism that still pervades sections of Hungarian society.
As recently as May, a citizen of Budapest was arrested for screaming anti-Jewish invective at Israeli Consul Motti Rave while in March, Israel complained about Hungary's then proposed Eurovision Song Contest entry, Wars for Nothing, whose original accompanying video clip had included reference to Israel’s Operation Protective Edge in Gaza.
Although Israel was not mentioned by name in the song, Israel’s Ambassador to Budapest Ilan Mor asked the Hungarian broadcasting authority to remove reference to the Gaza war, as it was viewed as an "inconvenient" political message against Israel.
So many at the dance festival were as much surprised as charmed by the warm, self-effacing approach of Hungary’s Ambassador to Israel, Dr. Andor Nagy when he addressed them before the show.
His diplomatic posting to Israel is his first and comes after a decade as a Hungarian MP when he served as Head of the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff.
Further, Dr Nagy’s visit to Karmiel bore both personal and civic resonance as the Israeli city is ‘twinned’ with Hungary’s Kisvárda where he once lived as a boy. Moreover, as he explained during an interview for The Diplomatic Club magazine, he had visited Israel several times before his appointment
“’both for official visits and as a tourist, as the godfather of
my second daughter lives in Haifa’.
“’He was born in the Transylvania region of Romania before moving to Budapest, where we met and became very close friends. Though back then in 2003, I had never thought I would ever be sent to Israel as an ambassador, it is such a blessing now to have them here in the country, especially as they make us feel like we are part of the family’”.
Among those present at the festival show were Anglo immigrants, US-born Sylvia Walters and Pamela Sax, formerly from the U.K. who were so delighted by Dr Nagy’s speech that they later contacted the Hungarian Embassy in Tel Aviv, requesting a fifteen minute interview with him as they wished to discuss a planned trip to Budapest.
Mrs Walters said: “He invited us to the embassy, spent an hour talking about the city, gave us a DVD about the Budapest museum, lots of tourist-valuable info and phone numbers. He also shared details and photographs of his family. It was a lovely visit with a generous man”.
She added that while Dr Nagy mentioned the 400,000 Jews sent to Auschwitz during the Holocaust, “we didn't discuss present day attitudes”. However, the three “also discussed the general economic situation in Europe to a small degree, as well as Hungarian and Israeli cultural values”.
This piece first appeared in the October 2015 edition of Live Encounters magazine as A Hungarian’s Love For Israel (http://liveencounters.net/?p=12291) edited by Mark Ulyseas, a faithful supporter of Israel and all matters Jewish.
© Natalie Wood (19 September 2015)