Czechast with Irena Kalhousová, Director of the Herzl Center for Israeli Studies in Prague, about Czechia and Israel

Irena Kalhousová

The Herzl Center for Israel Studies is a research and teaching institution dedicated to the enhancement of knowledge and awareness about the modern State of Israel. It is the first academic institution in the Czech Republic fully dedicated to the study of Israeli society, politics, and history.

It is not the ambition of Czechast to provide you listeners with news and current affairs analysis on a regular basis. However, I thought it might be useful to give you some background information about this country and its people’s relationship with Israel and the Middle East in general, because it’s impossible to ignore what’s been going on in Israel and the Gaza Strip since October 7th, 2023.

Irena Kalhousová is the Director of the Herzl Center for Israeli Studies at Charles University in Prague. Among other things, we discuss that Czechoslovakia was the only country willing to send arms to Israel when it was fighting for its survival in 1948. But as soon as the Communists consolidated their power after the coup d'etat of 1948, they made a ruthless U-turn in the official policy towards the Jewish state.

Irena Kalhousová | Photo: Michal Novotný,  Charles University

Irena explains the Slánský trial in 1952, which was a part of the Czechoslovak version of the Stalinist purges and trials in the Soviet Union. Just to explain briefly the context: Rudolf Slánský who had been the General Secretary of the Communist Party, was arrested as the alleged leader of a conspiracy against Czechoslovakia. He and 13 other co defendants were also accused of Zionism, planning sabotage and it resulted in 14 executions, including Slánský. Eleven of the executed were Jewish.

In February 1990, literally weeks after the fall of Communism, Czechoslovakia and Israel resumed diplomatic relations. Has it been a kind of “smooth sailing” ever since? Or were there some disagreements, quarrels? Those are some of the questions that Irena Kalhousová answers in this episode of Czechast.

Author: Vít Pohanka
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  • Czechast

    Czechast is a regular RPI podcast about Czech and Moravian culture, history, and economy.