Czech trucks to the rescue

Tatra fire-fighting trucks in Israel

Tatra vehicles handle difficult off-road conditions (photo credit: TATRA TRUCKS)
Tatra vehicles handle difficult off-road conditions
(photo credit: TATRA TRUCKS)
While many are aware of the vital role played in Israel’s air defense by Czech-supplied planes in 1948, few are aware of the successes closer to the ground provided by another Czech enterprise, Tatra Trucks. The company, named after the nearby Tatra Mountains on the Czech-Slovak-Polish border, has been manufacturing cars since 1897 and is the oldest automotive factory in Central Europe.
Tatra vehicles have long distinguished themselves by their unique chassis design, which uses a central load-carrying tube and axles with independently suspended swinging half-axles bolted together into a single unit. This design has enabled Tatra vehicles – from passenger cars to military trucks – to handle difficult off-road conditions.
Israel first became aware of the high quality of Tatra vehicles in 1973. During the Yom Kippur War, several Tatra military trucks were captured from the Egyptians, and the Israeli soldiers were impressed by their performance and handling, especially in desert terrain. Though Israel and Czechoslovakia did not have diplomatic relations during the Communist era, the IDF was able to purchase a significant number of Tatra trucks through an American company.
Since the renewal of diplomatic relations between Israel and the Czech Republic in 1989, Israel has purchased Tatra trucks for military purposes, as well as fire trucks that are used by fire departments throughout the country Petr Rusek, who served as chairman of Tatra Trucks from 2013 until 2019, explained how the fire-fighting connection was made. “In 2016, while visiting Israel, I was invited to see Israel Fire and Rescue trucks. Several fire truck drivers, who had positive experiences when using Tatra trucks in the course of their IDF service, asked me if Tatra was making fire-fighting trucks. So, we started to work on this project.”
In 2016, Israel had suffered a wave of forest fires caused by arson and dry, hot weather. In consideration of these difficulties, in 2017, the Czech government donated a Tatra fire truck to KKL-Jewish National Fund. With its excellent off-road capabilities, the Tatra fire truck was the perfect solution for putting out fires in these hard-to-reach areas. In 2019, Israel ordered an additional twelve units, which were designed and specified based on their experiences with the first truck that had arrived in 2017.
Rusek says that his positive feelings for Israel extend beyond business considerations. “My feeling for the State of Israel comes from my heart. I strongly believe in values such as tradition, patriotism, independence, and tolerance. In Czechoslovakia, we had those values until the Communists took over in 1948. Since 1989, we are trying to renew this mindset. You, in Israel, have all those values. I am proud that in 1948 our country strongly supported the State of Israel and hope that our relationship has remained at that level – between countries, between people, and between companies.”
This article was written in cooperation with Donath Business & Media s.r.o.