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Three Ministers of Hungarian Origin in New Israeli Government

Ábrahám Vass 2021.06.03.

Three ministers of Hungarian origin will join the newly-formed Israeli government. Future prime minister, Yair Lapid, future defense minister, Benny Gantz, and future transportation minister, Merav Michaeli, all have some Hungarian roots.

Opposition forces, consisting of eight different parties, have finally announced the formation of a government and consequently, to replace incumbent Benjamin Netanyahu.

According to their agreement, centrist Yesh Atid’s (There Is a Future) leader, Yair Lapid, will take over the prime ministership in the second two year period, between 2023 and 2025 (provided that the government lasts a whole term).

Lapid’s father, similarly a renowned politician and former minister, Tommy Lapid (or Tamás Lampel), was born in Újvidék (Novi Sad, now Serbia) to a family of Hungarian Jewish descent. His family was seized by the Nazis and deported to the Budapest Ghetto. While Tommy’s father was killed in one of the concentration camps, he and his mother were rescued by Raoul Wallenberg in Budapest and moved to Israel in 1948. In ‘HaAretz,’ he worked at the Hungarian language Israeli paper Új Kelet (New East) and reportedly formed an important and active local Hungarian community.

Israel’s incumbent and future defense minister Benny Gantz‘s past similarly has a Hungarian connection. Mother of centrist Kahol Lavan’s (Blue and White) leader, Málka Weiss, was originally from Mezőkovácsháza (Békés County), where she was deported to Bergen-Belsen in 1944. After surviving the Holocaust, she immigrated to Israel. In addition, Gantz’s father Nahum has some Hungarian origins too, as he came from Szováta (Sovata), Szeklerland, Romania.

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The social-democratic Labor leader, Merav Michaeli, who would take over the Ministry of Transportation in the next government, his grandfather is none other than Rudolf Kastner (a.k.a Rezső Kasztner), a Hungarian-Israeli journalist and lawyer in Kolozsvár (Cluj-Napoca) who became known for helping Jews escape from occupied Europe during the Holocaust. He was assassinated in 1957 after an Israeli court accused him of having collaborated with the Nazis. His role and activities are still to be clarified completely.

featured image: Benny Gantz (in the middle) and Yair Lapid (right) in 2019; via MTI/EPA/Abir Szultan