During his visit to Israel, Minister of Human Capacities Zoltán Balog held negotiations on inter-ministerial agreements and met with representatives and organisations from the Israeli Hungarian community.

On Sunday, Mr. Balog held talks with Minister of Labour, Welfare, and Social Services Haim Katz, with whom he primarily discussed preparations for a future treaty on social security concerning the calculation of pensions for people who have worked all their lives in Hungary and then retire to Israel.

His discussions with Minster of Education Naftali Bennet centred mainly on the possible transposition of Israel’s internationally acknowledged Talent Search Programme. “This programme has already been researched and transposed by Singapore, and we would also like to examine Israel’s methods for selecting and supporting talent through a delegation of experts”, Mr. Balog told Hungarian news agency MTI following his meetings, indicating that his visit has served to further strengthen relations between the two countries.

The Minister’s Sunday programme in Jerusalem also included a visit to the Israel Museum, where he was greeted by the institution’s recently retired legendary director, James Snyder. “This museum is an important partner to Hungary, and for instance has enabled the Dead Sea Scrolls to be exhibited in Hungary. On this occasion, we viewed contemporary Israeli art, including and exciting exhibition on how modern Israeli artist view Jesus. We also discussed the possible presentation of several exhibitions in Hungary”, Mr. Balog said, summarising his visit to the institution.

Previously, on Saturday the Hungarian Minister was presented with the Officers Cross of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem with Crown and Wreath by Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III in appreciation of his work to assist persecuted Christians.

“This was an expression of gratitude towards the Hungarian Government, because the fact that we set up a deputy state secretariat expressly to assist persecuted Christians was received well here in the Middle East. We have also ready provided support to several Orthodox Churches in the region and would also like to help the charitable work performed by the Patriarch of Jerusalem”, Mr. Balog highlighted.

“The continued existence of Christians here is not just in their interests - they do not want to leave and represent a minority among refugees; it is also in our interests that our two thousand year old relationship with the cradle of Christianity is not severed, and that they can have a future here, not just a history”, he stressed.

The Minister’s other stop on Saturday was the Austrian Hospice in Jerusalem, which was founded in 1857, and which was visited by Emperor Franz Joseph and Hungarian Count Gyula Andrássy during their pilgrimage to the Holy Land in the 19th century, and which served as the representation of the Austrian Empire and the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy in Jerusalem.

Hungary was not included in the institution for decades during its years of socialism, but also present at the meeting were President of the Austrian Hospice Foundation György Habsburg and the priest from Burgenland who is the current director of the institution, and a possible new framework for cooperation was discussed.

On Friday, Mr. Balog visited the Memoria Museum of the Hungarian Speaking Jewry in the northern Israeli city of Safed, where he was given a tour of the institution by Director Ron Lusztig and his mother, the founder of the museum, Éva Lusztig.

“On a totally voluntary basis and of their own accord, the museum has accumulated a wonderful collection about Hungarian Jewish families who have emigrated here, which it would be worth elevating to a higher level. This is a touching and convincing endeavour, and I will recommend that it receive funding so it can be worthy of this very positive era of our mutual history”, the Minister said. The further advancement of the museum was discussed, including moving it to a more suitable location, increasing its capacity and improving its infrastructure.

(Cabinet Office of the Prime Minister/MTI)