Masaryk University offers help to Israeli universities and students
9 October 2023
In response to the developments in Israel, Masaryk University is organising assistance for partner Israeli universities, academics and students. MU is also offering support to Israeli students currently in Brno who may be directly affected by the situation in their home country.
On Saturday morning, Israel woke up to a new reality. More than 3,000 missiles were launched from the Palestinian territories at Israel, a country with a population similar to that of the Czech Republic, followed a day later by mortar fire from Lebanon. This unprecedented terrorist attack left over 700 people dead, 2,000 wounded and around 100 kidnapped. A state of war has been declared in Israel as it has been invaded by enemy commandos, and schools across Israel have been closed. Masaryk University has a long-standing partnership with several Israeli universities, and Rector Martin Bareš has therefore decided to offer them MU’s assistance. “I have written a personal letter to the rectors of twelve Israeli institutions with which we have long-standing friendly relations, express solidarity and offer help. I believe that it is only natural, as this is a brutal attack on our common values, in direct contradiction to the principles of democracy and any civilized coexistence,” said Rector Martin Bareš.
Masaryk University currently has over a dozen of its students and academic staff in Israel. According to Petr Suchý, MU Vice-Rector for Internationalisation, they are all believed to be safe and unharmed. “The MU Centre for International Cooperation emergency team contacted all our students and academic staff in Israel on Saturday. It was a great relief to learn that none of them were registered among the dead or injured. We offered our help to all of them.”
One of the academics is Zuzana Vikarská, who recently received the MU Rector’s Award for Outstanding Teachers and who arrived at Reichman University in the town of Herzliya, north of Tel Aviv, in mid-September. “Saturday’s morning was not pleasant. Somewhat paradoxically, we learned of the outbreak of the war from our European friends who wrote to make sure we were all right,” said the professor from MU Faculty of Law, who went to Israel to study national and constitutional identity, Israeli politics and issues connected to the rule of law, including the judicial reform and the protests that it has sparked in the country. Her stay was supposed to last eight weeks, but now she has no idea if she will be able to complete it. “We follow the local media closely and know what to do when the sirens go off – which has happened three times in Herzliya so far. We are in contact with the Czech embassy only on an informal basis. Unfortunately, there is no official crisis communication. There is talk in the media about repatriation flights, but no one has contacted us about this. The most important thing is that we are unharmed and reasonably safe at the moment. We have spoken to the local police, the army and people from the town hall, and they have all assured us that Herzliya is not being targeted because it is far from Gaza and the Lebanese border. This means that we are not in any immediate danger. However, if the situation escalates, everything could change. Things are quite unpredictable here,” added Zuzana Vikarská.
There are currently 61 Israeli students at Masaryk University who are closely following the situation in their homeland. In many cases, the Palestinian attacks have affected them on a personal level. Masaryk University offers them a helping hand, in particular through the MU Student Advisory Centre, which has long been providing psychological assistance to students. “Students and employees who require psychological counselling regarding the current events in Israel can contact us at email@example.com, where we will assist them in booking a psychological consultation in English at the earliest opportunity,” stated MU spokesman Radim Sajbot. He added that Alena Slezáčková, vice-head of the Department of Medical Psychology and Psychosomatics at the MU Faculty of Medicine, is available to students of the faculty (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Cooperation between Masaryk University and Israeli institutions, as well as bilateral cooperation between the two nations, has long roots dating back to before the Second World War. Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, the first president of Czechoslovakia and the spiritual father of Masaryk University, made no secret of his support for the creation of a Jewish state. Direct Czechoslovak support continued in 1948 when Israel was fighting for its independence and faced an armed attack by all the neighbouring Arab states. The historical parallels and the current volatility of the world order are of great concern to Martin Bareš, Rector of Masaryk University. “The current crisis in Israel, precipitated by a terrorist attack of an unprecedented scale on Western democratic values; the war in Ukraine, in response to which the Russian president – who has openly challenged the existing international order – expanded Russia’s national budget by more than a quarter year on year, 40% of which is to be spent on the military; and the growing tensions between China and the United States over Taiwan, lead me to the conviction that our leaders as well as the EU’s top representatives should make their national, European and global priorities clear. The situation calls for it,” concluded Rector Martin Bareš.