The disturbing story of an Israeli man’s brutal murder in Hungary earlier this year made headlines in the independent Hungarian media, but had little coverage in the international English-language press. Yet the murder appears to have been racially-motivated and this story is linked to the state-led hate campaign against Syrian refugees and migrants. HFP’s György Lázár shares this story with our readers.
Ofir Gross, a 40 year-old Israeli man arrived to Kecskemét, Hungary, in March 2016 where he reserved a room using CouchSurfing, the internet portal specializing in short-term rentals. Kecskemét is a city of 110,000 about an hour’s drive from Budapest.
Although Gross didn’t speak Hungarian, his host understood that he grew up in Jerusalem and that he took off time from studying in Germany to visit Hungary in search of his roots. Gross stayed in his room surfing the web and talking on the phone; he avoided soap or chemicals and once got angry when he learned that dishwashing liquid had been used to clean his pot. Gross repaired his own shoes and clothes; he seemed to like Hungary because he could live there cheaply.
From Kecskemét, Gross travelled to Debrecen and in mid-April he appeared in the village of Tiszakécske. Gross set up a tent close to the railway station. Village people saw him in the pub using WiFi and charging his cellphone in the local hardware store.
Local police found Gross’s body in an abandoned house at the center of the village where he had spent the night in a sleeping bag. According to the reports, Gross was beaten to death with bricks; his cellphones, laptop and some cash were missing.
In Israel, his sister Gali wrote about Gross in a Facebook note: “Sensitive, with a gentle soul, funny, creative, highly educated, handsome and blue-eyed. Seeker of justice, he is someone who strives to be honest which for him is more important than anything. He has a stubborn belief in his way and in himself.” According to Gali her brother had studied computer science and mathematics at Hebrew University, worked on a patent and founded his own startup. “He’s a very stable person,” she wrote.
Hungarian police have arrested two men in connection with the murder but have declined to release details. The Index online news site sent a reporter to Tiszakécske to ask people in the village pub about the death of the Israeli. They didn’t think much of it; they thought he was just another migrant.
(For those who read Hungarian here is the link to Mr. Tamás Fábián’s excellent reporting: click here.)