70 Hungarian postcards to the 70-year-old Israel
For those to whom peace is important
By Sivan Erush - 2018-03-08
Translated from the Hungarian original: Bea Sara Goll
“Fighting with someone you don’t know is easy; making peace with him is impossible” – Yehuda Lahav
Yehuda Lahav was born in 1930 in Kassa under the name of Istvan Weiszlovits. The family lived in Eperjes, his parents had managed to sneak Yehuda to Hungary before they were deported, so he became the only member of his family who survived the Holocaust. He returned with the liberators to Czechoslovakia, where he joined the Zionist movement Hashomer Hatzair and then made aliyah to Israel in 1949. From the beginning of 1953 he has been writing for the Hebrew newspapers Kol-HaAm and then Yediot Ahronot. In 1961, he had written about the Eichmann trial for the Czech newspaper Tvor, and so he started his foreign correspondent career. Until 1989, his articles were published mainly in Czech and Slovak-language, though he sometimes became blacklisted in the socialist Czechoslovakia, due to changes in politics. In the 1980s he participated in organizing the Hungarian-Israeli Cultural Society, which played a major role in the normalization of relations between the two countries. Following the Hungarian regime change, he returned to Budapest as an East European expert, thanks to his language proficiency and knowledge of the locality, and until 1994 he worked as a Central European correspondent for Yediot Ahronot and later for Haaretz. After 1994, the Slovak Radio and Television, as well as Slovakian newspapers used his Israeli material and later he was contributed to Czech television broadcasts about the events of the Middle East. His articles appeared in Hungary in the daily Népszabadság and later in the Népszava. For his work, he was awarded with the Aranytoll [golden pen] by the Association of Hungarian Journalists in 2009.
He said in an interview: “I think it is my duty to inform the Hungarian, Slovak, Czech public first-hand about what is happening in Israel. I think it's important to get information from the source, because the information that has been passed through the filters of various news agencies is scarcely balanced and well-researched.“
Over the decades, Yehuda wrote thousands of articles in Hebrew, Czech, Slovak or Hungarian, mostly for peace and understanding. The Arab-Jewish reconciliation was close to his heart, and up until his death in 2010, he firmly believed that once there will be a solution found that is acceptable for everyone.
“I'm not writing for Jews or Palestinians. I am writing for the Jews and Palestinians to whom peace is important; for those who do something for it every day. There are two nations here that are suffering. They have rights, and if they want to resolve this conflict, they have to abandon certain rights they have. This is the most difficult thing, but the only solution is a compromise. The land that both nations are entitled to equally must be shared and this is painful for both nations. But eventually it will be split up. Either it will be divided and they’ll live side by side like two nations, two states, or they will war with one another without an end.”
Yehuda wrote several books; two volumes of his were published in Hungary: his autobiographical book Sebhelyes élet [Scarred life] was released in 2003 by the publisher Maccabi. Yehuda's memoir was originally written in Hebrew, and he himself translated it into Hungarian and Slovak. From this book we can learn about the life of Hungarian Jewry in Eperjes, their losses on account of the Holocaust and their subsequent hardships. We can gain a glimpse into the everyday life of Israel following the founding of the State, the correspondent's life, who has always been trying to live and write honestly, because he felt - as almost everyone who survived the Holocaust - that he was alive in the place of those who have been killed and he owed them to live a life worthy of their memories.
“I constantly feel their presence and our responsibility for them. The memories of my parents have accompanied my whole life; together with the memories of those who could still live with us if they had not disappeared in the crematorium's smoke. I wanted to convey this awareness to my children and grandchildren.”
The Népszabadság published a collection of his articles under the title Együttélésre ítélve [Condemned to live together] in 2007, in which Yehuda argues that the Jewish and Palestinian people are condemned to live together even if the Arab extremists, obsessed with jihad, value death more than life, and even if the Jewish extremists on the other side would not give the Arabs even a handful of land.
Yehuda Lahav and his wife, Mária Hirsch, with whom they spent 21 important years together
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