Lapid: We Must Fight Anti-Semitism
Finance Minister Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid) stressed on Monday the importance of fighting anti-Semitism and hate.
Speaking at the annual meeting of the World Jewish Congress in Jerusalem, Lapid told the story of his father, former MK and government minister Tommy Lapid, who narrowly escaped being killed along with thousands of other Jews who were taken to the banks of the Danube and shot in public in the winter of 1945.
Video: Natan Epstein
"Two weeks ago, I was standing in the Hungarian parliament house and told them the story about a moment, which happened in February 1945, in a ghetto in Budapest,” said Lapid. “At the time there were death convoys for the Jews. They were taken to the frozen Danube river, told to cut holes in the ice and were then shot into them. The river of the Danube was red at that time. They rounded up my father's village, and the Hungarian civilians were looking down from their windows at the Jews who were condemned to die.
“Next to the ghetto was a small green public lavatory. My grandmother told my father to go inside and pee. It's hard to pee when you are 13 and freezing, but he did. The convoy left without them. Later on, it was known that 598 were dead under the Danube ice. And suddenly my father was free. Yet he had no place to go. So he went back to the ghetto, hoping the ghetto would be freed before the next convoy.
“Years later my father visited Budapest with me. Suddenly he was crying and pointing, saying 'look!'. And there was the green public lavatory. He said: 'This is it. This is the place I was saved in. This is the place where my Zionism was born. This is when I realized I have to have a place to go to',” he said.
“We will miss the whole idea of the genocide that happened, if we do not realize that it would not have happened without the silence of thousands of Hungarians,” said Lapid. “And anti-Semitism has raised its ugly head again. We can't overlook racism. Hate does not disappear. It is a horrible fact of life we should fight every day. And we will - because we share this issue. Because the great Jewish tradition says I am defined by my relationship with others."
Over the past several years there has been a rise in anti-Semitic incidents, not only in Hungary but all across Europe.
The incidents in Hungary include its chief rabbi being verbally abused on a Budapest street, anti-Semitic chants at a football match against Israel and pig's trotters being placed on a statue of Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who saved thousands of Budapest Jews in World War II.
Last year, a far-right deputy from the openly anti-Semitic Jobbik party called publicly for the resignation of a fellow MP who claimed to have Israeli citizenship.
The comments came after another Jobbik parliamentarian released a statement saying that a list should be compiled of all of the Jewish members of government.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban several months ago pledged to fight anti-Semitism, which he said was "unacceptable and intolerable."