"It is amazing to witness what you have done with the desert. Where nothing grows, you planted a forest"
The Senate President of the Czech Republic's Parliament, Dr. Premysl Sobotka
, attempted to appear formal and restrained but his great excitement was evident in the tears that occasionally made his eyes sparkle in the course of a modest but moving ceremony during which, he planted an olive tree in the Czech Forest that is part of the Yatir Forest in the Negev.
"It is amazing to witness what you have done here in the desert. Where nothing grows, you planted a 4 million trees forest ", said Dr. Sobotka, a physician by profession, to Jana Marcus
, the Central Europe Desk director at KKL-JNF, who accompanied him on his tour of the Negev.
"This is my first visit to Israel and I am excited, especially when one understands your circumstances as a nation when, after thousands of years of fighting for a homeland, you secured a new opportunity for yourselves, in a similar manner to the one gained by my land, the Czech Republic, following 40 years of Communism".
In response to a question, Dr. Sobotka said that, in the course of his political and other meetings, he encountered many positive people in Israel. "In those meetings, I was able to reaffirm what I had known about Israel prior to my arrival. The meetings at the Knesset and the one with Shimon Peres, President of Israel, were most important and manifested the quality of good relations, in the present as in the past, that prevail between the Czech Republic and Israel. During those meetings, I stated that in my opinion, the flotilla to the Gaza Strip was not to be viewed merely as a humanitarian endeavor and expressed my full support for Israel's position in this matter".
The ceremony at the Czech Forest was held in honor of the Czech Senate President who asked to include in it the awarding of citations of honor on behalf of the Czech Senate. These special citations were awarded to two Czech born Israeli citizens whose personal stories exemplify the fight against the Nazis and the Holocaust that befell Czech Jewry. One is Hava Pressburger
who was accompanied by her husband, Avraham. Hava paints and part of her work revolves around the Holocaust. Hava has already exhibited her art works in many exhibitions in the Czech Republic. Her brother, the late Peter Ginz, wrote a diary as a teenager in 1941-1942, one that was discovered accidently after it became known that the late Israeli astronaut, Ilan Ramon, took with him to space a picture drawn by the young Peter. This diary has already been translated into 13 languages and it describes the life of a 13-14 year old child in Prague.
A citation of honor by the Czech Senate was awarded also to Menachem Tiben
a veteran of the Czech army who was among the Czech armored forces
soldiers to be secretly recruited in 1948 by the Czech army and sent to
the young State of Israel in order to assist in its War of
Independence. Menachem Tiben survived the Holocaust in the
Sachsenhausen concentration camp thanks to his prisoners' uniform with
the red triangle that marked his status as a political prisoner. That
red triangle was given to him by one of the camp's residents upon
Accompanied by the Czech Ambassador to Israel, Tomas Pojar
as well as officers of the Czech army who joined him later on his visit
to the Hatzerim Air Force Base, the honored guest and his entourage
participated in the ceremony, at the end of which, they recited the
planter's prayer and, assisted by Czech KKL-JNF president, Michael Pacovsky
, Dr. Sobotka planted the young olive.
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