ICE | The Israel Chemist and Engineer

82 The Israel Chemist and Engineer Issue 1, September 2015, Tishrei 5776 Reports The State of Israel and the Czech Republic maintain a long history of friendly relations. Already in the 1920s, under the leadership of Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk as the first President, Czechoslovakia was the first country to recognize the Jewish people as a legitimate nation. In 1948, immediately after Israel’s Declaration of Independence, Czechoslovakia was one of the first countries to recognize the new State. Furthermore, refusing to cooperate with the worldwide embargo on arms supply to the State of Israel, Czechoslovakia provided the young country with much weapons, ammunition and airplanes. In fact, Czech pilots trained the first pilots of the Israeli Air Force. Prime Minister David Ben Gurion had stated that without the essential help from Czechoslovakia it would be impossible for Israel to win its War of Independence, and the people of Israel will never forget it. Although the relations between the two countries worsened under the Soviet occupation, the diplomatic relations were reinstated in 1990 immediately after the Velvet Revolution and the Czech Republic became Israel’s most friendly European country. Over the years the two countries have signed many agreements of collaboration in multiple fields, including the economy, culture, science, education and security. The special cultural and economic relations between the two countries enjoy the support of an influential community of more than 25,000 Israeli citizens of Czech origin. Many Israeli artists, authors, musicians, filmmakers and scientists are very welcome guests in the Czech cities, and this friendly attitude is reciprocal. In 2010, the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs established the Czech Centre in Tel Aviv, focusing on many areas of the rich Czech cultural tradition, including film, theatre, music, fine arts, literature and others. When we envision the Czech Republic we recall beautiful Prague, the UNESCO World Heritage Site, which attracts annually more than 4.1 million tourists, we recall composers Bedřich Smetana and Antonίn Dvořák, writers Franz Kafka, Jaroslav Hašek, brothers Josef and Karel Čapek (they introduced the word robot), painter Alphonse Mucha with his Art Nouveau, Pilsner beer, and the car Škoda. The list of famous Czech scientists includes the geneticist Gregor Mendel, chemists Jaroslav Heyrovský (the inventor of polarography and electroanalytical chemistry), Otto Wichterle and Drahoslav Lίm (the inventors of soft contact lenses) and many others. The year of 2006 was declared by the Czech government as the Czech Jewish Heritage, commemorating the 100 anniversary of the Jewish Museum in Prague. The Museum displays an impressive 1000-year Jewish presence in Czechoslovakia. Of the 325,000 Jews who lived in the country before World War II, over 270,000 died in the Holocaust and most of the survivors left to Israel and other countries. The current Jewish population in the country is less than 5000. The Czech Republic has always been the most industrially developed country in central and Eastern Europe and it is still one of the most stable and prosperous of the post- Communist states of Central and Eastern Europe. Prague is not only the capital and largest city of the Czech Republic and the historical capital of Bohemia, but also a political, cultural, and economic center of central Europe with a rich history of over 1,100 years. Prague was the capital of the Holy Roman Empire and was later an important city of the Austro- Hungarian Empire. Bohemia and Moravia were the economic heartland, producing over 70% of all industrial goods in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Although the population of the Czech Republic is only 10.5 million, it is highly educated and technologically-oriented, and enjoys a well-developed infrastructure. Consequently, the country has undergone very fast recovery from decades of occupation and exploitation by the Nazi and Communist regimes. The GDP is now 85% of the EU average and the principal industries include heavy and general machine- building, metallurgical products, electronics, transportation equipment, and a very strong chemical industry, with special emphasis on pharmaceuticals. About 100-150 chemical enterprises function in both Israel and the Czech Republic. Both the their chemical sectors include basic chemistry, crude oil processing, petrochemistry, pharmaceutical industry, polymeric materials, paper industry, as well as many startup companies that develop advanced technologies. The Czech chemical industry is concentrated in large production complexes. Bohemia is home to the Elbe chemical region and Moravia houses the Moravian chemical region. The crude oil processing and petrochemical industries Framework Agreement for Collaboration between the Chemical Societies of the Czech Republic and Israel November 25, 2014, Jerusalem Ehud Keinan 1 and Alec Groysman 2 1 The Schulich Faculty of Chemistry, Technion - Israel Institute of Technology, 2 Israeli Association of Chemical Engineers and Chemists