Edited by Anna Popper
Israel’s Independence Day (Yom Ha’atzmaut) is celebrated annually on the anniversary of the establishment of the State of Israel, according to the Hebrew calendar, on the 5th day of the month of Iyar. The day before is dedicated to commemorating those who gave their lives to gain independence and the country’s continued existence. On 14 May 1948, the day the British mandate expired, the new Jewish state – the State of Israel – was formally founded, based on the United Nations General Assembly resolution on the 29th November 1947, calling for the establishment of a Jewish State in Eretz-Israel.
On the occasion of the 75th Anniversary of Israel’s Independence, H.E. Yacov Hadas-Handelsman, Ambassador of the State of Israel to Hungary, hosted a grand event filled with celebration on 2 May 2023 (11 Iyar, 5783), featuring a very special performance entitled “Pardes” by the Vertigo Dance Company from Israel, presented by eight extraordinary male and female dancers with athletic abilities, amazing dynamism and sophisticated movement, blessed with artistic sense and sensibility, at the National Dance Theatre in Budapest.
Founded in 1992 by Noa Wertheim and Adi Shaal, the Vertigo Dance Company is characterised by inspiring creativity in terms of art, humanity and nature. The company is a key player in contemporary dance life both in Israel and worldwide. Pardes is Noa Wertheim’s new choreography, ‘born’ at home during the bizarre time of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is a work of art in which the body connects to its inner spiritual layers – to the inside of each human being/dancer – while being interwoven with a common tapestry. The music was composed by internationally renowned percussionist Itamar Doari. Pardes, a Hebrew word for “orchard” – comes from ancient Persian and means a garden of trees. Many other languages have also adopted this word: hence the name Paradise.
The cultural performance of Israeli artists was a great success, very much appreciated by the large audience, and it was followed by the official ceremony.
First of all, Mr. Péter Ertl, Director of the National Dance Theatre conveyed his congratulations and praise to the artists and the Artistic Director Mrs Noa Wertheim, for their outstanding performance, which took place as part of the Budapest Dance Festival and the 10th International Theatre Olympics in the beautiful new home of the Hungarian dance life, opened four years ago.
In her remarks, the Guest of Honour, Minister of Justice, Mrs. Judit Varga said on behalf of the Hungarian government:
“Learn from yesterday, live for today and hope for tomorrow, as celebrating the 75th anniversary of the State of Israel, I brought the quote of Albert Einstein, which sums up the essence of each anniversary and for me also designates a statehood and identity, that the State of Israel and Hungary can share. It is respect for the past that shapes our present, from the everyday life of our citizens to the legal systems and international relations of our countries. The Hatikvah, the national anthem of the State of Israel, refers to the not-lost hope of 2000 years. Running for independent statehood is deeply rooted in our identities. Hungary and Israel are medium-sized countries located in geographical areas where, due to different reasons, certain significant elements of their heritages differ from those of their neighbours. The storm of history has left both states with responsibility for a larger community than the population living on their territory, and this sense of responsibility transforms into an inspiring force.
While celebrating the anniversary of the State of Israel, we commemorate not only the past 75 years, but also hundreds and hundreds of years in which Jewish communities have been striving for respect and recognition around the world.
The vision of an independent Jewish state of Budapest-born Theodor Herzl (actually his birthday was on 2 May) was turning into reality through the determination and sacrifice of a small but enthusiastic community.
Hungary considers the State of Israel our natural ally in preserving our European Jewish heritage and protecting our European values built on a Christian and Jewish culture. And while respecting the State of Israel, we should respect the Jewish communities that not only live in Israel but also form an integral part of our societies in Europe, in the US and elsewhere in the world. This attitude is based on a duty of remembrance and responsibility. We shall commemorate the victims of the Holocaust, the 6 million murdered Jews. It is our responsibility to ensure that history does not repeat itself. We bear responsibility towards the victims, the survivors and future generations. It is therefore our duty to keep the memory of the Holocaust alive, to promote education, documentation and research, and to fight against Holocaust denial. It is also our duty to create and uphold a social environment in which anti-Semitism cannot take root. And we are proud that Hungary is one of the safest countries for members of Jewish communities in Europe today. Our government has a zero-tolerance policy on anti-Semitism. We contribute to the revitalisation of Jewish religious and cultural life, to the renovation of synagogues and cemeteries, and support their schools and cultural events.
The Hungarian government will remain committed to maintaining friendly bonds and upholding the positive environment for Hungary’s thriving Jewish community. This statement leads us to understand the present, where commitment is key, and the world is facing unprecedented challenges. The State of Israel and Hungary are often confronted with prejudice, misunderstanding or a lack of benevolence at international level. In these times, the commitment to our values shall be the low start that guides us to enforcing our people’s priorities and the fine balance between interests, needs and reality. I can only assure you that Hungary will continue its policy of protecting Israel’s interests in international organisations whenever there is an imbalance or an anti-Semitic initiative against the Jewish state.
As a mother of three sons and also an active politician, I see inspiration in the memoirs of Golda Meier (actually it’s her 125th birth anniversary), when she once said: “We only want what is given naturally to all peoples of the world, to be masters of our own fate, not of others, and in cooperation and friendship with others”. These words describe not only the wish of the State of Israel, but also that of the Hungarian people. Therefore, they can be seen as the basis of friendship for the countries and for the future. In this future there is one more thing that we definitely need: hope.
Famous quote of David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister: “In Israel, in order to be a realist you must believe in miracles.” The creation of the State of Israel was such a kind of coincidence between realism and miracles.
And currently, the State of Israel and Hungary face several challenges as both the work of realists and the faith in miracles are needed to ensure peace, security and welfare. But I’m sure that the lessons learned from the history, together with the strong commitment to our values, as well as the friendly relations between our countries, will provide us with the necessary backing even under difficult circumstances. In this spirit I wish the sovereign State of Israel a future of prosperity, peace and welfare.”
Then Mrs. Yifat Shasha-Biton, Deputy Speaker of the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament took the floor and said:
“It is a true honour to celebrate among such close friends in Hungary. Along with my colleagues from the Knesset I came to Budapest to meet our counterparts in the Hungarian National Assembly, to hold a meeting with government officials and to thank you for the flourishing Jewish community in Hungary. We highly appreciate the close ties that exist between our two countries and nations on all levels and in the international arena. We in Israel greatly value Hungary and its unwavering support on international forum. We have also come here to convey our gratitude to the government of Hungary for its consistent and ongoing support of Jewish life, heritage and safety of the Jewish community in Hungary. As we celebrate our independence, we take note of what we have achieved over the last 75 years. And we never take our friend, Hungary, always standing with us for granted, and to such friend we say: Nagyon köszönöm. (Thank you very much.)”
As the final speaker, Ambassador Yacov Hadas-Handelsman greeted the attendees, representatives of the Hungarian social, economic and cultural life, members of the diplomatic corps and Israeli nationals, and stressed:
“We are here to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Independence. When we speak about Israel’s birthday and the rebirth of the Jewish state after a break of 2000 years, we have to mention a famous Hungarian Jew here in Budapest, who envisioned it all, Theodor Herzl, who said: If you will it, it is no dream! What a dream it was, still is, and hopefully will be so in the future.
As a nation, we have overcome challenges and opportunities, and are seen by many as a nation that continues to preserve despite all the challenges we have to face. Despite the existential struggle, we have managed to build a flourishing country, absorbing millions of Jews coming home from more than 100 countries, as well as to build a vibrant society and a strong economy. I think in Hungary we are seen as a start-up nation. I wanted to emphasise that relations between Israel and Hungary have a long history of glories and darks. First, the grand contribution of the Jewish communities to the development and well-being of Hungarians of all walks of life and along their history. Also worth mentioning is the Jewish theological Reformation, in which Budapest played a major role in the 19thcentury. Then the dark period after WWI began and turned into a complete black one during WWII and the Holocaust. But in recent years, relations between Israel and Hungary have deepened and strengthened, hence becoming very close. First, politically, Hungary has become one of Israel’s most reliable partners in Europe and various platforms of the international arena. Then economically, where there is still a lot to explore, and also in the tourism sector, where Israelis actually vote with their feet and love to come to Hungary. So we only hope to see more Hungarians coming to Israel. Last but not least, we have to mention that the Jewish community in Hungary and the State of Israel are very thankful to the Hungarian government for all their support to us, as well as the efforts to implement the zero-tolerance policy towards anti-Semitism. Let’s toast to the glory of the State of Israel.”
Sources: Embassy of the State of Israel in Budapest,