Salem Radio Network News Monday, February 26, 2024

World

Israeli families celebrate Hanukkah in Hungary, a temporary refuge

By Krisztina Fenyo

BUDAPEST (Reuters) – Liora Ruth lit the first candle of Hanukkah with her 6-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son in their rented Budapest flat on Thursday, and thought of everyone they had left behind as they flew out of Israel in the aftermath of the Hamas attacks.

The Jewish musician was born in Hungary but emigrated to Israel two decades ago to start a new life. She ended up with her children in the town of Safed, near the Lebanese border.

Then the news spread of the militants’ deadly rampage over the frontier from Gaza on Oct. 7, and the sirens started blaring.

Fearing for the family’s safety, the 40-year-old moved them to Tel Aviv and then got on a flight to Budapest organised by the Unified Hungarian Jewish Congregation.

Two of her older children were already on a school trip in the United States and another is in school in Israel. “It’s really hard for me emotionally that they are not here,” Ruth said.

But they will all be reunited in the Hungarian capital by the end of the festival, she said.

Israel has unleashed a massive military campaign in response to the incursion by Hamas fighters who killed 1,200 people and seizing 240 hostages, according to Israel’s tally.

Israeli strikes have killed 17,177 Palestinians in Gaza since Oct. 7, Gaza’s Health Ministry said on Thursday.

Hungary’s nationalist and anti-immigrant Prime Minister Viktor Orban, an ally of Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu, has said Israel has a right to defend itself.

While huge crowds have marched through other European capitals against Israel’s invasion of Gaza, Orban has said Hungary will not allow any rallies supporting what he calls “terrorist organisations”.

“We cannot allow any Hungarians, regardless of their faith or origin to feel unsafe,” Orban said last month.

In Budapest, Ruth’s two younger children have started to go to a temporary school set up for dozens of Israeli children who have arrived to join the city’s estimated 100,000-strong Jewish population.

“Many families have come who have no relatives here,” she said. “Israelis see Hungary as a safe destination, contrary to some other European countries.”

(Writing by Krisztina Than; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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