Hungary might be renowned for its goulash, but for one day of the year last week it was all about hummus, as Israel’s Embassy in Hungary transformed Budapest’s famous Central Market Hall into an Israeli Shuk, to give the Hungarian people a “small taste of Israeli culture.”
The Budapest Market Hall (’Nagy Vásárcsarnok’) is the most famous market in Hungary, renowned for its vast array of meats, spices and fresh produce. But last week, and for the first time as part of the 16th Annual Hungarian Jewish Summer Festival, the Israeli Embassy decided to recreate the experience of the Israeli market right in the heart of Budapest.
According to Hagai Mei-Zahav, the Deputy Chief-of-Mission at the Embassy, the purpose of the event was “to bring the experience of the Israeli shuk to Hungary, including the unique tastes, senses, fragrances and sights of Israel” and “to promote a better understanding of Israel within the Hungarian people, which is not only about conflicts, but also great culture, food, tourism and fun.”
The highlight of the week and the opening event of the Shuk was the presentation of the biggest plate of hummus ever in Hungary, weighing more than 50 kilograms and served (in small portions!) on a plate 2.5 metres wide.
Mei-Zahav says “we wanted the Hungarian people to have something nice, something different and creative so they can experience Israel from a nice point of view.”
The Shuk was officially launched by Israel’s Ambassador to Hungary, Ilan Mor, who made the ceremonial first dip, together with representatives of Hungary’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the City of Budapest and the local District.
He was also assisted by a delegation of Israeli high-school ‘Young Ambassadors’, who came to Budapest for the week with The Israeli-Jewish Congress to participate in the Jewish Festival and also help build bridges with their Hungarian peers and show support and solidarity for the local Jewish community.
Ambassador Mor said “food for Israel is part of our culture,” adding “Israel has become a Disneyland for those who love good food.”
Noting how “hummus also brings us closer together with our neighbours,” Ambassador Mor suggested that “if hummus could bring peace, then we would’ve had peace many many years ago already.”
The hummus however was only one part of the Shuk, with many other Israeli exhibitions on display, highlighting the best of Israeli food, culture and tourism.
It is estimated that at least 75,000 people visited the Shuk, but as Ambassador Mor concluded, “this will be only the first course of those who would like to visit Israel.”