Israel's Ambassador in the Czech Republic, Daniel Meron, Praises the Friendship Between the Two Countries

Post date: Oct 06, 2018 6:36:29 AM

Israel's Ambassador in the Czech Republic, Daniel Meron, Praises the Friendship Between the Two Countries 

The Czech Republic and Israel share nearly 30 years of Diplomatic Commercial and Tourism Relations. Furthermore, the State of Israel views the Czech Republic as one of its closest friends. Those were the words of the Israeli Ambassador in the Czech Republic, Daniel Meron, in an interview to the Czech Newspaper Prague Daily Monitor.

The President of the Czech Republic, Milos Zeman, will arrive in a state visit in Israel on November 2018, and ambassador Meron states in regard to this visit that: "We are looking forward to the visit because Zeman is a great friend of Israel." The ambassador claims that this is one of the most important visits the Czech Ambassador is expected to carry out in the first half of 2018. The president is expected to inaugurate a Czech House in Jerusalem as a preparatory step to moving the Czech embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.

The deep friendship between the two states began almost as soon as the velvet revolution took place. According to Ambassador Meron this ended the dark period which began during the Second World War in which the Jewish community in German occupied Bohemia and Moravia was almost completely exterminated by the Nazis (The Jewish community prior to the war was 90,000 strong. Only 10,000 Jews survived the war within Bohemia and Moravia). Immediately after the war there was a brief honeymoon between reborn Czechoslovakia and the Zionist Movement and the State of Israel – a honeymoon that was cut short by the Communist takeover in 1948.

The ambassador states that during the brief period between 1947 to 1948 (in which Benes served as the President of Czechoslovakia, and Masaryk as the Foreign Minister) Czechoslovakia supported the principle of a Jewish Homeland in the Land of Israel.

There are three fields in which Czechoslovakia helped Israel in its early years. The first was weapons and ammunitions including training. According to the ambassador "The first pilots in the Israeli Air Force, which today is apparently one of the best air forces in the world, were young men who were trained in Czechoslovakia, and some of them were Czechs." He claims that "This aid was essential for our victory in the war of independence, and we do not forget this."

The second field was political support in the establishment of the State of Israel, including voting in the UN in favor of the 1947 partition plan. Ambassador Meron claims that the third field has been forgotten by history – it is the aid Czechoslovakia provided to Jewish refugees. He notes that Poland was filled with Jewish refugees after the holocaust, and that Czechoslovakia enabled them to pass through its territory to Austria, and thence to Italy, where they embarked on ships to Israel or the United States.

Meron stated that: "When Václav Havel was elected President of Czechoslovakia in 1990, he stated that friendship with Israel was important. Moreover – he promised that the new Czechoslovakia would be extremely close to Israel and this has been the situation ever since. And if I may fast forward 30 years to the present, the Czech Republic has indeed become one of Israel's closest friends in Europe."

Jerusalem currently holds a square named after Václav Havel, and Israel is filled with sites named after Thomas Masaryk (The President of the first Czechoslovak Republic) – the man who had vigorously defended Jews and battled antisemitism since the days in which he was a student of law.

Commercial partnership 

The trade between the two countries is currently typified by the exchange of traditional industries from the Czech Republic with the products of digital industries from the State of Israel. Meron states: "We are one of the Czech Republic's best trading partners outside the EU block. In fact, the Czech exports to Israel rise yearly, primarily because the Škoda Automobile Company is so successful in Israel". This success has led Škoda to open up a new center in Tel Aviv and invest in many Israeli companies, particularly high tech and transportation. The ambassador expects this type of cooperation to continue and even to expand. In addition, Israel and the Czech Republic closely cooperate in hydrological issues.

For example, Ambassador Meron has met with the Czech Agriculture Ministry in order to examine possible solutions for the drought in the Czech Republic. According to the Ambassador: "We have made great achievements in turning the Israeli Deserts verdant. This has led some in the Czech Republic to enquire whether we would be willing to share our technologies and knowledge with them. That is why I believe that the water crisis can be a basis for future collaboration."

Tourism potential 

According to the ambassador, Prague is considered to be a central tourist attraction for Israeli tourists. Prague is renowned for its beauty, the friendliness of its residents and its Jewish history. Prague is in fact one of the most attractive tourism sites for Israelis in the entire world, and around 200,000 Israeli tourists flock to it every year. Nonetheless, the ambassador claims that most Israelis miss the attractions the Czech Republic holds outside of its capital.

The Ambassador himself has traveled across the Czech Republic over the two years in which he has served in the country and says: "I want to see Israelis get out of Prague and visit Český Krumlov, Kutná Hora, Brno, Karlovy Vary, and Pilzen". Meron believes that there is a great deal of potential growth in this type of tourism.

In addition, there are several Jewish sites outside of Prague. For example: around a 100 Czech villages in which Jewish communities existed until the 1930s. in most cases only the Jewish cemeteries in those villages survived. Various initiatives restore the Jewish culture in these villages such as:

However, few Czech tourists reach Israel, and the ambassador states that only about 25,000 Czech tourists reach Israel every year. However, the hope is that this number will continue to grow. One of the opportunities to increase Czech to Israel tourism is Israel's hosting of the Eurovision contest in 2019.

The ambassador states that : "Anyone who travels to the Eurovision next year in Israel will enjoy himself big time. Israel has an incredible gastronomic scene, particularly for vegetarians and vegans. The state is very modern and yet simultaneously biblical, which many archaeological sites to explore, so that everyone can find what to love."

The ambassador praised the Czech performance and the contest and notes that "I particularly loved Mikolas Josef's song which was special and different." He did not understand why the Czech Republic did not win one of the first ten places to this day and he states that: "The Czech Nation is extremely musically talented, including in classical music and the opera."

Ambassador Meron knows that many people wonder at Israel's participation in the contest in spite of not being physically part of Europe but claims "We are European in our culture and association and we are an open society."

In addition he states: "The Arab countries surrounding us do not permit us to participate in various musical contests in the Middle East. Our music is also very Western, as is our culture and our values" He summarizes by stating: "We view ourselves as Europeans to all intents and purposes".

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