On October 7, immediately after the attack by Hamas terrorists, Israel announced the largest mobilization in its history, which also applies to Israelis living abroad.
In the Czech Republic alone, 15,000 citizens of the Jewish state live long-term. “The mobilization does not concern all of them, yet hundreds of Israelis from the Czech Republic have flown back to their homeland in recent weeks,” Israeli embassy spokeswoman Petra Mohylová told Seznam Zprávám.
But she pointed out that these are estimates. “Unfortunately, we don’t have the exact numbers because the summons are sent out directly, not through the embassy.”
Summons orders go to people according to a certain key. “The main guide is in which unit who served as part of their basic military service and what the army considers a priority,” Mohylová explained.
In Israel, military service is compulsory for both men and women over the age of 18. It lasts 36 months for men, 22 for women. And it must be completed before starting university.
Too many volunteers
For example, 26-year-old Michael Rivo, who is in his fourth year of study at the Faculty of Medicine of the Palacky University in Olomouc, found the summons in the mail.
“I received it immediately on the evening of October 7, that is, the first day of the conflict. I am a member of the active reserves of the combat unit, which was one of the first to be called up. But so many volunteers signed up that my call-up order was revoked after a few days. Before I could fly away,” he describes his situation.
Mohylová also confirms the great interest in returning to their native country: “Many of those who were not called up decided to either voluntarily enlist or return to Israel to help as volunteers and be with their loved ones in this difficult time.”
According to data from the Ministry of Education, 484 citizens of Israel are studying at domestic universities. Their community is the twelfth largest and, with the exception of the neighboring Slovaks, only representatives of significantly more populous countries, such as China, India, Ukraine or Turkey, are ahead of it.
A surprise and brutal attack by the Palestinian movement Hamas on Israel is likely to leave over a thousand dead, and Israelis are rightly beginning to ask who is responsible for the failure of the security apparatus.
A quarter of the faculty’s foreign students are from Israel
Only 195 medics with an Israeli passport come to the 1st Faculty of Medicine of Charles University, making up a quarter of the foreign students at this institution. “This testifies to the popularity of this school in Israel and to the school’s well-established cooperation with leading hospitals in the Jewish state,” says Eitan Brizman, vice dean of the faculty for international studies.
Twenty-eight-year-old Gat Granas is also a fourth-year general medicine student at the faculty. He will be in Prague until February and then he will leave to complete his studies at Šeba Hospital, which according to Newsweek magazine is the 11th best medical facility on the planet.
“Prague is a beautiful city, our community here is still growing, but after the events of October 7, we have dwindled. Some were conscripted, some returned voluntarily and others out of fear,” Granas describes the events among his compatriots.
“Each of us had a dilemma: to return or not? I finally decided to stay, even though I’m in the reserves. As a doctor, I will one day be more useful to my country than a regular soldier. However, my mind is always with my family in Israel.”
Reporter in Israel
Seznam Zpráv special correspondent Jan Novák went to Israel to report on the horrors committed there by Hamas terrorists.
Fear in public
Charles University and other educational institutions have come up with a whole range of measures to support students affected by the conflict. She reserved a special psychological counseling room for them, provided a space for meetings and offered students a scholarship in cases of difficult situations, for example, if they are dependent on the financial support of a family in a conflict location.
“A lot of students use the services,” says Associate Dean Brizman. “When they saw what was happening in other countries in Europe, they got – in addition to the constant stream of anti-Semitic and terrorist posts on social media – a real and justified fear for their lives. They are afraid to leave their apartments for fear of being attacked in the street.”
Gat Granas confirms the vice-dean’s words about the need for support. “Everyone I’ve talked to personally knows at least one victim of the conflict. In addition, the current anti-Israel situation in Europe is mixed into all of this. The Czech Republic has good relations with Israel, yet the wave of support in Czech society is not the same as the Ukrainians enjoyed almost two years ago. Anti-Semitism is spreading on the nets and I am starting to fear speaking Hebrew in public.’
Michael Rivo does not share his concerns. “Czechs are a very pro-Israel nation, which I respect very much. Everywhere I went in the last 14 days, I had an Israeli flag proudly pinned to my lapel and many people expressed their support and wished me strength. Even the university’s approach was exemplary,” he says.
The management of Palacký University made a statement two days after the attack. “Students have all our support if they decide to stay and if they decide to leave,” assured Milan Raška, Vice Dean for Foreign Relations of the Faculty of Medicine. “Professional students do not need to interrupt their studies for the time being. It is impossible to estimate when they will be able to return to our faculty,” he added.