Czechia and Israel: Together in the past and future – The Jerusalem Post

Posted By on November 28, 2020

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the renewal of diplomatic relations between the Czech Republic and the State of Israel. Shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989, Communist rule in Czechoslovakia ended. The nonviolent transition of power from the Communist regime to a democratic government was known as the Velvet Revolution. In December 1989, former dissident Vclav Havel was elected president of Czechoslovakia. Then-deputy prime minister Shimon Peres and then-foreign affairs minister Moshe Arens visited Prague in February 1990, and diplomatic relations between the two countries were re-established in that same month. In April 1990, Havel became the first leader from former Communist Eastern Europe to visit Israel. Czechoslovak Jews, who for decades had not been allowed to visit friends and family in Israel, considered Havels visit to Israel miraculous. Holocaust survivors living in Czechoslovakia accompanied their new president on his visit, as the trip coincided with the opening of Where Cultures Meet, a major exhibit about the Jews of Czechoslovakia presented in Tel Aviv at Beth Hatefutsot, the Museum of the Jewish Diaspora.The reconnection with Israel stimulated Jewish life in Czechoslovakia, and Czech-Israeli cooperation began to increase. The Czech-Israeli Mutual Chamber of Commerce was founded in February 1996. In 1993, Czechoslovakia divided into the independent countries of the Czech Republic and Slovakia, and Havel continued as president of the Czech Republic. His initial visit in 1990 illustrated the importance and the depth of good relations between Czechs and Israelis. An essential part of this equation was the Czech/Czechoslovak Jewish community. Jews had been integrated into Czech society since the 19th century, and they played an important role in introducing the Zionist movement to the Czech public. They also represented an important part of society, which contributed to Czechoslovakias development as a free and democratic state. Jewish soldiers were also an important part of Czechoslovak resistance in World War II.HAVEL, WHO died in 2011, and current President Milo Zeman, who has continuously supported Israel in the international arena, are part of a remarkable tradition of Czech-Jewish friendship first epitomized by Tom Masaryk, the well-known Czech politician, statesman, sociologist and philosopher, founder, and first president of the Czechoslovak Republic of 1918. Masaryk was appalled by the Hilsner Affair, a series of antisemitic trials in 1899 and 1900 following an accusation of blood libel against Leopold Hilsner, a Jewish inhabitant of Poln, a small town in Bohemia, part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He spoke out vigorously against antisemitism in the Czech lands. Later, as the Czechoslovak president, Masaryk became the first head of a modern state to visit Palestine. He was interested in Zionism and Zionists were interested in Czechoslovakia, which represented a modern multinational state where Jews could declare their Jewish nationality.As regards Zionism, I can only express my sympathy with it and with the national movement of the Jewish people in general, since it is of great moral significance. I have observed the Zionist and national movement of the Jews in Europe and in our own country, and have come to understand that it is not a movement of political chauvinism, but one striving for the rebirth of its people, said Masaryk in 1918. The Munich Agreement in 1938, in which Hitler, with the consent of France, Great Britain, and Italy, swallowed up much of Czechoslovakia, was a difficult lesson for the Yishuv (Jewish community in pre-state Israel), and it is remembered in Israeli political discourse to this day. Exhibition in Trebic honoring a Czech rescuer of Jewish children (CULTURAL CENTER OF TREBIC)

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Czechia and Israel: Together in the past and future - The Jerusalem Post

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