Česká centra, Czech Centres

Česká centra / Czech centres - logo


Israelis with Czechoslovak Roots

The outbreak of the Covid-19 influenced all of us. All cultural institutions were closed down without exception. But we do continue and together with the artists we strongly believe that when the things return to normal we will be able to present the newest creations in art, theater, movie or in music. In the last days we carried out few interviews with Israelis with Czechoslovak roots and now you can read more about it. Eva Grossmann, Hagai Shaham, Dalia Shimko a Ivan Joel Hajoš in interview with Robert Mikoláš.



Eva Grossmann

"Archeology is actually a foundation for non-written history. History is influenced by the politics, whereas archeology offers dry facts, which were discovered".

Foto©Pamět národa

Eva Grossmann, née Fromowitz, was born on the 9th of August, 1932 in Olomouc as the youngest of two daughters. Her father, Wilhelm Fromowitz, came from a Jewish family and her mother, Helena, was a raised as Christian. Eva started attending school but was expelled in 1940. Both she and her sister, Ricarda, were summoned to a transport in 1942. However, their mother decided to send them into hiding to her grandfather‘s. Both sisters remained in hiding until the end of the war. Following liberation, Eva returned to school. In April 1949, the family headed to Israel. At a later age, she graduated with a degree in archaeology and Egyptology, specializing in underwater archaeology.



Mrs. Grossmann, how are you spending these days?

What am I doing? I have a garden, so I have been planting potatoes, radishes, carrots and some flowers, watering it, weeding it while listening to the singing of birds. I also read in order to keep my mind sharp and try to solve some mathematical exercises. But I can see that I don’t remember much. I like to read for example ‘Epic of Gilgamesh’ or Shiller’s ‘The Song of the Bell’. But I also enjoy reading Karel Erben, which we were always bored of in the school. Robert, I’m very lucky, I don’t need people. Perhaps because I have been four years of my life, between the age of 8 to 12, alone only with animals, I quite like to be by myself.

You have gone through some very difficult times, as a child you were hiding from the Nazis, then the communists nationalized your family’s property and after your departure to Israel you have experienced several wars. How do you perceive the current coronavirus crisis?

I don’t talk about politics. In the times of the frequent wars here, we all had a feeling that it leads to peace or at least to truce. The coronavirus will disappear sooner or later, if people obey. But the orthodox believe that it’s the will of God and nothing can stay in the way of that. That’s the reason why the illness is affecting their cities so badly and they are running away out of fear and bringing it to us.

You are a well-recognized Israeli archeologist. Among your most famous discoveries is the Byzantine Port of Apollonia. What was it like back then? Could you tell us a bit more about the discovery?

I’ll try to keep it short in my answer. In Roman times, there were three roads leading from Nablus, Sebastia and Afek/Jerusalem to Appolonia. They didn’t build them just to look at the sea. Appolonia was a city, there were buildings, not just huts. The graves can be found even in Kfar Shmariahu, so the city probably reached up to here. In addition to that, the city was producing glass, wine but mainly argaman – red color form Murex shells used for coloring fabrics. For one Roman dress you would need up to 10 000 of these shells. Everybody was looking for the port in the north of the city but I had decided to follow the topography and I that’s how I found the main port. The Greeks and the Romans always had two ports – one for the international trade, where the loading and unloading of goods took place and small one for fishermen and coastal trade.

You know, the stream by the shore is flowing from the south to the north, from Egypt to Anatolia. But there are 3 points where the stream flows other way around: Gaza, Apollonia and in south of Haifa. Probabaly it's the Coriolis effect. Scientists at the Haifa University ignored it, since it didn't fit in to the research. They claimed, that Apollonia doesn't have harbor, because the entrance to the harbor cannot be from the south side. Otherwise it would be clogged by sand. 3 years, almost every day, we threw marked bottles into the sea at the north part of the small harbor. If someone curious didn't took them out, they all  floated to the south. It was simple but effective.

Are you still interested in archeology? Any recent discoveries caught your attention?

I follow works of Dr. Sean Kingsley, director of the institute Wreck Watch. They are focused on maritime archeology. Besides of that they are monitoring ship wrecks and protecting them from looters. At the same time they do research, for example with help of a robot they digged up ships from the Spanish Tierra Firme fleet from 1622, which lay 700m deep in the sea. 


For Eva Grossmann in the project Memory of the Nations klick here

Port of Apollonia





Hagai Shaham

„I think that we should appreciate, be able to enjoy and respect (and protect!) the beautiful things in our world. And music is certainly one of them! It is a language, a form of art, a natural thing that was here before us, and of course a form of entertainment. Music (and Art) contributes to our soul, I believe that it is a spiritual necessity of humankind“.


Hagai Shaham is internationally recognized as one of the most exciting Israeli violinists. Shaham was a student of the renowned Professor Ilona Feher. He continued his studies with Emanuel Borok, Arnold Steinhardt and the Guarneri Quartet. During his career he received several prestigious awards. As a soloist he performed with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, BBC Philharmonic, Prague Philharmonic and many more. He performed with Israel Philharmonic as a soloist together with Misha Maiski and Mehta at the orchestra’s 70th anniversary celebrations.

Shaham has performed at many international stages and recorded over 30 albums which have been enthusiastically received by international press.  Besides of that Hagai Shaham is a professor at the Buchmann-Mehta School of Music at Tel Aviv University, and an Artist in Residence at Stony Brook University, New York. Together with violinist Ittai Shapira, he is a co-founder of the Ilona Feher Foundation for promoting young Israeli violinists. 



Mr. Shaham, your family has a connection to Czechoslovakia, right?

My father, Amnon Shaham was born in Czechoslovakia (Nitra) in 1936. He came to Israel after the war, in 1949. He was a music teacher and inspector of music studies of the ministry of education for the north of Israel. Today he is retired, playing (in normal times) weekly chamber music quartet with his amateur friends

What are you doing these days? Are you in Israel or you've been locked abroad because of measures taken in relation to the spread of coronavirus abroad?

I am in Israel, locked here... Practicing, teaching from home, doing food shopping for my family.....I was supposed to be on a tour (England, US and the Netherlands) but it was all cancelled, as well as the remaining of this season. 

Aren't you bored? Most of the year you have been touring in different parts of the world, teaching abroad, but now you have to be home? 

Actually not at all. I has some time which I can really use to practice things I always wanted, to read new things.... and in addition, I continue to teach my studends in Tel Aviv university as well as in University of New York. 

What about to play „online“? Aren't you planning a "home" concert online to please your fans, as some musicians or orchestras are doing these days, such as the Czech Philharmonic?

I didn't plan any online performances. Teaching is hard enough.... the means which I have (normal internet, skype/zoom etc.), are not of any acceptable quality for live broadcast of music. Perhaps I will do something nice with my kids who are at home with me. 

Your children are following in your footsteps, they are also gifted musicians, how about such a common home concert?

You just asked the question to my previous answer :-) one more violinist at home (Michael, 16 years old) and Double Bassist Naomi (22 y.o). We already read some chamber music, will do more, perhaps on our roof (like the Beatles....) 

Speaking of the Czech Philharmonic, you are a great connoisseur and supporter of Czech composers, right?

Well, I performed several great Czech composers like Dvořák, Smetana, Janáček, Martinů.... all really great on the highest level. I recorded a CD of Janáček complete works for violin and piano, as well as 2 piano trios of Dvořák. I plan to record his sonatina and Slavonic dances next year.

When this crisis is over, do you have any plans where you want to play? And what about going to the Czech Republic?

I hope very much to return to normal schedule. I have already bookings for season 2021/22... but too many things in the near future will most likely be cancelled (summer festivals etc.). I always loved playing in Czech Republic, I was there several times and collaborated many times with Czech musicians. I don't have at the moment a plan to perform there, but will always look forward to such opportunity!







Dalia Shimko

"Theater is for me a place for absolute freedom. A place I can truly face the dark and the romantic side of my personality. It's a place where I can talk about the problems, difficulties and the violence in the world. It's place where I can work with talented people and grow together the artistic freedom".


Dalia Shimko (b. 1962), is an Israeli film and theater actress as well as a theater director, and founder of Ensemble Aspamia. Shimko was born in Czechoslovakia (now Slovakia) and immigrated to Israel at the age of six. After her military service, she participated in the movies "Zits 80" and "Repeat Diving ", but it was her role as Noa, in "Noa bat 17" (1982) that made her a local star and opened her the door to the theatre. In 1984 she went to London to study at the Webber Douglas Academy. In 1985 she returned to Israel and continued to appear in plays (Soul of a Jew, 1982; Ghetto, 1984, Moliere, 1986); Films (One of us, 1989) and television series (On the fence, 1982-87; Bat Yam New York 1999; The Eight, 2006) to name just a few. On 1991, she began her directing career in the theatre, and since then she brought to the stage dozens of productions, in Acting academies (Blood Wedding, 1991; Spring Awakening, 1993), theatre festivals (The Snake, 1993) as well as in Habima, the Israeli national Theatre (Crack in the Concrete, 2007) and many others. On 2003 she founded her own Fringe group – Aspamia – which first operated as an independent group, and later became an ensemble supported by the Ministry of Culture. Since then the ensemble has brought to the stage over 20 productions, all of which directed by Shimko.


Cultural institutions were among the first places to be closed in Israel, including your theater. What are you doing currently Mrs. Shimko? How are you trying to deal with these tough days?

These days I'm hardly doing anything. Not only because of the corona virus situation, but also because of the political situation in Israel that gives me great worry and concern, and greatly strains me and my creativity.

As a theatre director you are responsible also for your actors and all the employees. Do you still keep in touch and support each other? And do you also stay in touch with the audience?

As the director of my company Ensemble Aspamia I keep in touch with my actors almost on a daily basis, we are talking about our concerns and exchange our humor about the situation supporting each other and trying to plan further projects. For my audience we are streaming past shows online through social media.

You are also a well-known actress, you starred in movies and later in theaters and you have always been very active. However now, you have to stay at home. Are you writing a new play or rehearsing any new role?

I was engaged on a few projects before the crisis escalated - a new play based on a short story 'Little Pinks', co-writing a new television series, and raising funds for a feature film co-written with actor and my friend Sharon Alexander.

Israelis are famous for their solidarity and bravery. Do you believe they will overcome this crisis and defeat the coronavirus together?

I do believe that Israeli society is in a middle of a conflicting and divinsioned crisis within regardless of the viral epidemic but regardless I maintain hope that it could also band society once more.

Every day brings us new stories, new heroes, which certainly include doctors, nurses, caregivers, but even cashiers in supermarkets. Would you see a possible theatrical theme in their stories?

I have no doubt that already accounts and books are being written as we speak about the epidemic. As for myself usually I don't react to the immediate reality in my artistic work but who can say for sure.

Czechoslovakia is your native country. Are you still in touch with people from the land of your ancestors and with their culture?  Do you keep track of the local cultural scene?

My closest family resides in Prague and I'm very connected to them and through them also to the Czech society and culture. My cousin Jaroslav Rona is a very famous Czech sculpture and painter and through his circle I'm accounted with many with the Czech artistic scene, I have aspirations and dreams to work within the Czech and Slovak theater. Hopefully soon after the corona situation.




Foto©David Kaplan

Web Aspamia Ensemble

Facebook Aspamia Ensemble





Ivan Joel Hajoš


 „Life is an everlasting trial to refine my definition of  what is the next thing I am not going to be".
Ludvík Vaculík

Ivan Joel Hajoš was born 1946 in Czechoslovakia and since 1969 he is living in Israel. He worked as mathematician and data analyst in a state research institution. Since his retirement he works as  free-lance translator for Czech-Slovak and Hebrew.



What are you working on now?

There are two films, both from the sixties, which are scheduled for the coming summer festival of the Czech cinema, which hopefully will be shown in August: "Coach to Vienna" (dir. Karel Kachyňa) and "When the Cat Comes" (dir. Vojtěch Jasný). I have the privilege and the pleasure to translate the dialogues into Hebrew and to synchronize the subtitles. The postproduction of these subtitles will be done by the lab of the National Film Archive in Prague (yes, Hebrew subtitles in Prague!). We work together since 2018.

Why do you like films from the Czechoslovak New Wave of the 1960s?

I was born in Czechoslovakia and turned 14 in 1960. So I actually grew up in the atmosphere of the sixties: Suchý-Šlitr, the political thaw, Literární noviny, all the big names of Czech literature, theater, and of course my favorite Czech movies including the New wave. This is my innermost cultural background.

How do Israelis perceive and accept Czechoslovak and Czech cinematography and why?

The commercial cinema here is flooded by the global commercial deluge. Some of it is fine, of course. Milos Forman is the only name that a person in the street would probably acknowledge. Generally, people here appreciate mostly the Czech sense of humor and satire, the know-how and brilliance of Czech cinematographers, the superb Czech actors, but the broad range of creativity of Czech film artists has now only a single platform: The Cinematheques. And we see enthusiastic acceptance of all the genres of Czech cinema, both contemporary and classical by all age groups. The Israelis are starting to "discover" the European roots of our culture, after years of mostly American influences.

What are your plans for the future? Do you translate maybe books?

A book I translated from Hebrew to Slovak (Robert Zvi Bornstein: Flashes in the Darkness) was recently accepted for publishing by Marenčin in Bratislava. In these days I started to translate a theatrical play from Czech to Hebrew - too early to talk about it. I would like to translate some Czech prose too. And I am definitely thinking of translating from Hebrew to Czech as well. Subtitles and prose as well. I would like to contribute as much as possible and put a few bricks of my own to the bridge between the Israeli and the Czech/Slovak cultures.


Hebrew subtitles for: 











Our Partners