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Thursday, 1 April 2010


Sparking fears that rising far-right political sentiment in Hungary may be intensifying, the home of a Chabad rabbi in Budapest was bombarded with rocks on Tuesday night as a number of people gathered there for the second Pesach seder. According to Eran El-Bar, a Jewish Agency representative in Hungary who was present at the seder meal, guests at Rabbi Shmuel Raskin's table were stunned when the stones began smashing into the windows ofthe home around 11pm, just as the festive dinner was drawing to a close. "The incident was alarming for some of those present," El-Bar told the Jerusalem Post on Wednesday, "although a decision was made to continue with the seder nonetheless." "But nearly a half-hour later," he continued, "another rock smashed into the window. It was then that we decided to call the police." Hungarian police arrived at the home and even stationed a number of officers outside the home, El-Bar said. However, around midnight, another projectile slammed into the window – this time smashing a hole through the double-plated glass. "The final incident was something stronger than just a rock being thrown," El-Bar said. "It seemed to come from some sort of primitive weapon, like a slingshot." "It's a miracle that no one was hurt," he added. Although no suspects were apprehended, El-Bar refuted previously-reported claims that police had responded to the incident nonchalantly. "They responded to the scene," he said. "There wasn't any gunfire, and I think the police acted as was expected of them." El-Bar also said that he wished to stress the positive aspects of the holiday's observance in Hungary. "This was one unfortunate incident," he said. "But it shouldn't overshadow the fact that hundreds of young people took part in Pesach seders throughoutBudapest, including one at my home, and one that was held at the Jewish Community Center. All of those events took place without any incident whatsoever, and I think overall, that this was a positive Pesach."

However, the attack on Rabbi Raskin's home also comes at a time when fervent, far right-wing sentiment is building in Hungary, against the backdrop of national elections there later this month. Hungary's 100,000-strong Jewish community, most of which resides in Budapest, has been put on edge by the sharp spike in support for the far-right Jobbik party amongst Hungarians. Under slogans like "Hungary belongs to Hungarians," Jobbik, whose formal name is the Movement for a Better Hungary, has employed fierce, populist rhetoric in its election campaign, and is expected to make significant gains when Hungarians go to the polls on April 11. While the prime target of Jobbik's anti-foreigner platform has been the Roma, Hungary's Gypsy minority, the party has also expressed its resentment of "foreign speculators", including Israel, which party officials have openly declared are trying to control the country. Moreover, Jobbik has been able to capitalize on widespread dissatisfaction with the ruling socialist party, and is expected to gain enough votes to enter the Hungarian Parliament for the first time, after this month's elections. While El-Bar downplayed the role of the far-right's pre-election ascension with regards to Tuesday night's attack, he did acknowledge that the streets of Budapest were awash with right-wing propaganda, and that stark, nationalist sentiments there had already begun to materialize in other ways. "There are taxis here that specifically cater to the right-wing parties and their supporters," El-Bar said. "They only pick up those who identify themselves as right-wingers or conservatives." "Still," he added, "I think it is important to mention that this is not necessarily anti-Semitic sentiment, and that Jewish life is continuing to thrive in Budapest and other locations in Hungary."

Jerusalem Post