Ten days before the modern state of Israel was established, Ezer Weizman came to the Czech Republic to learn how to fly a Messerschmitt airplane.
The Israeli president arrived here again Tuesday, this time on a three-day state visit.
He was greeted at the airport by Czech Foreign Minister Josef Zielenec, and was then whisked away to Prague Castle for a meeting with Czech president Vaclav Havel.
The two leaders discussed general relations between Israel and the Czech Republic, and also discussed accords between the two countries. At least one of the accords involves agriculture.
Havel also awarded Weizman the Czech Order of the White Lion, the country’s highest state honor.
The award was “an expression of the exceptional esteem in which the Czech Republic holds Israel,” said Havel’s spokesman, Ladislav Spacek.
At a news conference, Weizman praised the former Czechoslovakia as one of the only countries that assisted Israel in the 1948 War of Independence.
The nascent Jewish state bought eight Messerschmitts from Czechoslovakia that year, and Weizman was one of eight pilots sent here to learn how to fly them.
He was in the Czech town of Ceske Budejovice when the State of Israel was established.
Weizman reminisced about celebrating the event with Czech friends and the popular plumb brandy, Slivovice.
Also, Weizman was given an award by Charles University here in recognition of his literary and political science writings.
Weizman was scheduled to meet Czech Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus and Milan Uhde, the parliamentary chairman, before leaving Friday.
He also was scheduled to visit the former Nazi ghetto and concentration camp in Terezin, also known as Theresienstadt.