Hungarian rhapsody

There were several influxes of Hungarian Jews to Israel: Before the war, after the war and in 1956 after the revolution.

couch home living room88 (photo credit: )
couch home living room88
(photo credit: )
For Hungarian Ambassador Andras Gyenge and his wife Aniko, being posted to Israel has given them many advantages they did not have in their previous appointment in Lisbon. "We love the warm climate," Aniko says when we sit down to talk, after the baby has been duly admired and taken away by the nanny, "but for us the fact that there are so many Israelis of Hungarian origin here makes it particularly attractive." Aniko goes on to explain that there were several influxes of Hungarian Jews to Israel - before the war, after the war and in 1956 after the revolution. So that when they hold receptions on the three national days there are always hundreds of ex-patriates on the guest list. The mansion - it is far too splendid to call it simply a house - can accommodate them all. "Some ambassadors make their receptions in hotels, but we like to have our parties here," she says. They moved into the place a year and a half ago and found it was a great improvement on the previous residence, which had been old and dark. "We realized how beautifully sunny it is here in Israel and thought it a pity not to have light inside the house," she says. While most of the furniture came with the house, they have tried to add a Hungarian flavor to the d cor. At first glance, as one walks through the magnificent entrance with its sweeping spiral staircase up to the bedrooms, the lounge gives the impression of quiet dignity, with several sitting areas opening onto a large patio with a view of the fenced-in pool out in the garden. It could be any fine home, anywhere. But then one begins to take notice of the specifically Hungarian nature of the house which they have tried to cultivate. The dining table is laid for a formal dinner, and all the dinner plates are from the embassy's personal collection of world-famous Herend Hungarian china. This particular design was created for Count Apponyi in 1930 and is named for him. Other illustrious owners of Herend porcelain, which is hand-painted and often very ornate, are Queen Victoria, who acquired her flowery set in 1851 at the Great Exhibition and subsequently had the design named after her, and the Shah of Persia, whose set was especially decorative and rich. Hanging on the walls is a collection of Hungarian na ve art which, although done by several different artists, has a common theme depicting familiar scenes of Hungarian life, all done in vivid colors. "They represent Hungarian folk art - the village as it used to be with the weekly market or the rustic weddings that once were popular. For me they revive childhood memories and I was pleasantly surprised to see how well they fit in with the style we have here," says Aniko. The main sitting area has several settees upholstered in an old gold fabric, which she assures me is very practical, especially with a six-year-old daughter who frequently brings school friends home to play. Another corner is furnished in black leather Art-Deco style around a polished black round table. Down in the basement they have some of the more old-fashioned furniture from the previous home, and it is here that they arrange informal get-togethers for writers to read their work, have showings of Hungarian films or just use it for casual discussions. Here, too, the ambassador has his study and well-equipped wine cellar with Israeli and Hungarian wines in evidence. The big wood kitchen with an adjoining hatch to the informal eating corner is one of the reasons they decided to rent this house. "I fell in love with it," says the ambassador's wife. "It's big, comfortable and well-equipped." From this kitchen emanate a succession of Hungarian delicacies for the various parties that are frequently held. In one of the wall cupboards one notices dozens more pieces of the Apponyi dinner service. "We love being here," says Aniko. "Israel is such a developed country. If I decide to do a last-minute reception, everything is so well organized that within a day I can arrange everything." For the Gyenges, this is their second ambassadorial posting, the first having been in Portugal. It is gratifying to know that Israel has so much to offer its visiting diplomats. Do you feel you own one of Israel's most beautiful homes? Please e-mail