'This is Where My Zionism Was Born'

Finance Minister chooses personal, not political, route at Holocaust Memorial Day ceremony - saying how 'Zionism was born' from the ghetto.

Tova Dvorin,

Finance Minister Yair Lapid
Finance Minister Yair Lapid
Flash 90

Politicians and religious figures in Israel often speak at Holocaust Memorial Day events, capitalizing on the opportunity not only to memorialize the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust, but also to take a stand for the future of the Jewish people. 

But on Monday, at least one Minister's speech became personal. 

Finance Minister Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid) spoke Monday, in an emotional address at the final ceremony for Holocaust Memorial Day at the Ghetto Fighter's House in the Galilee. 

"This was a moment, when my father lived in a small ghetto, and lived on the horsemeat from dead horses of soldiers," he described. He noted how the soldiers guarding the Budapest ghetto would often shoot at the Jewish boys in who would sneak out into the snow to find food. 

His father was saved because his grandmother pushed him into a public toilet during a deportation. Lapid emotionally described how, according to his father, over 15,000 people had been deported to the death camps - while he survived by hiding in the public toilet. 

Yair described how he and his father visited Budapest many years later. His father was happy, he said, to show him his former life - but began to cry when he saw the public bathroom, which was the only structure left of the former ghetto.

"Here, this is not only here I was reborn and where you were born, but where my Zionism was born," Lapid's father said to him. "I could not live in a world where I had no place to go - and I knew that we had to [go and help] establish the State of Israel." 

Yosef "Tommy" Lapid was born in Novi Sad, Yugoslavia, in 1931. He and his Hungarian Jewish family were deported to the Budapest ghetto during the Holocaust, where his father was killed; he and his mother survived and moved to Israel in 1948. 

The elder Lapid, like the Finance Minister, worked in journalism before entering politics. Tommy Lapid was a priminent journalist and became the director of the Israel Broadcasting Authority (IBA). He later began the far-left Shinui party in 1999, which sought to eradicate Jewish religious involvement in Israeli public life. Shinui briefly served in the Knesset, gaining a surprising 15 seats in the 2003 elections but failing to make the Knesset roster just three years later. Tommy Lapid died in 2008, at 76.