PRAGUE (Dec. 1)
A group of elderly veterans of the Czechoslovak army and air force were honored at the Israeli Embassy here last week for having trained recruits for the Haganah 43 years ago.
“We want to thank Czechoslovak friends who helped the State of Israel to be born and to survive,” Israeli Ambassador Yoel Sher told a group of retired generals, colonels and other officers who trained the pilots, parachutists and other soldiers of what would ultimately become the Israeli army.
The training was done on Czechoslovak soil.
At the time the Nov. 27 ceremony was held, 14 former Czechoslovak officers who had participated in the training had been identified. Others are still being searched for.
Military and Haganah medals and diplomas were handed to the Czechoslovak officers by Chaim Gouri, an Israeli poet, journalist and filmmaker who himself received his parachutist training in Czechoslovakia in 1948.
He still remembers the Czech command words used in the training, and he recalled its rigors, which prepared him to fight in five wars for Israel’s survival.
A retired Israeli air force colonel who was in Prague representing an Israeli manufacturing company told the gathering he had just been given the opportunity to sit once more in the pilot’s cabin at the same airport where he received his training 43 years ago.
The decorated officers wished Israel a lasting peace.