Tatra Tiger gets Silver Hand from Israel
Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses—Matthew 10:9
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After Soviet Communism and its Warsaw Pact collapsed, the Slovak and the Czech republics split on January 1, 1993, in an event that is sometimes called the Velvet Divorce. Slovakia became a member of NATO on 29 March 2004 and of the European Union in May 2004. In January 2009, Slovakia adopted the Euro as its national currency. Unlike Croatia, Israel arrived in Slovakia too late to put pressure along these fracture lines.
Considering this, it is easier to understand why Slovakia enjoys good relations with Israel. Its post-Communist regime is aware of how easy it would be for Israel to attack the country's past (allow me to repeat: the only country to pay Nazi authorities to deport its Jews). It wildly represses all uncomfortable mentions of this past as well as criticisms of Israel. The large picture above shows graffiti on a poster placed by the Prime Minister's party. It tells the entire story, it shows the people's position, the government's position, and its oppression of the people. Nowadays, the Slovakia-Israel relations are being developed through the Israel-Slovakia Chamber of Commerce and Industry and through the revival of cultural relations. Slovakia's capital city, Bratislava, was where Hatam Sofer (Yiddish transliterations of the name often opt for the misleading Chasam Sofer) lived and worked. He was one of the leading Orthodox rabbis in Europe during the first half of the 19th century and is still considered an authority. Before getting their title, Israeli rabbis must prove competence in his religious interpretations. This last topic brings us to Passover 2013.
During the weekend of March 23 and 24, 2013, a large group of rabbis from Central Europe and EJA (the Union of Jewish Organizations in the European Union) visited Bratislava and met with Slovak President Ivan Gašparovič and Prime Minister Robert Fico. During the meeting, the latter said: "Hatam Sofer transformed Bratislava into the international capital of Jewish education, and thus made a significant contribution to Slovak culture." Should I comment on the logical contradiction he uttered? I trust it is obvious enough to skip it. He also emphasized the importance of keeping and restoring Jewish sites in the city. The opportunity was used to remind the rabbis that he had been part of the movement that passed the law defining September 9 as a national remembrance for the Holocaust of European Jewry. Later, at the Presidential Palace, Mr. Gašparovič stated that a worldwide war against anti-Semitism is essential (Will it replace the War on Terror?). He ended his speech claiming that the visit was the opening of a new page in the relations of European Jews with Slovakia (Did he mean that next time Slovakia won't pay?).
The rabbis' answer was magnificent in its subtle directness. They explained to the Slovak rulers the symbolism and importance of Passover and then gave each one of them a gift. The gifts were identical, including "matza" (unleavened bread consumed during Passover) and rather heavy silver jewelry shaped as a hand. Is a symbolic silver hand clear enough? A hand given to you not in friendship, but with a message: work with us, hand in hand, and the silver will continue to flow. A hand and matza: you are eating from our hands. How is your industry advancing, Mr. Fico?
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