Tuesday, February 12, 2019 10:13 AM
"During his ongoing tenure as president of KKL ČZR, my father planted so many trees for other people. The time has come to plant in Israel for him too.”
- Hunza Pacovsky
Tuesday, February 6, 2019: Friends and family of long-time KKL Czech Republic president Michael Pacovsky, together with KKL-JNF in Israel, threw a surprise birthday party in Masaryk Forest in the Western Galilee in honor of Michael Pacovky’s 70th birthday.
“My father was almost in tears when he arrived here and realized that this was all for him.”
Those were the words of Hunza Pacovsky
during the celebration marking his father’s 70th
birthday. Hunza’s father Michael Pacovsky
is the long-time president of KKL Czech Republic
. The event took place in the Masaryk Forest near Kibbutz Sarid on Tuesday, February 6, 2019. Michael Pacovsky arrived in Israel a few days ahead of the celebration together with his two sons on what they called “a family birthday trip to Israel”. All the invited guests, including family and friends, and the many KKL-JNF staff members who prepared the event, kept the KKL-JNF tribute to Michael strictly secret.
Judith Perl-Strasser of KKL-JNF’s European Department, who had orchestrated the entire birthday party which she code-named “Surprise”, said that KKL-JNF is extremely grateful for all the work Michael Pacovsky has done and is continuing to do, for Israel and for KKL Czech Republic (KKL ČZR). “I have known Michael for over 13 years since he became president of KKL ČZR, but during the last two years we worked very closely together, and I am looking forward to many more years of fruitful cooperation.
KKL ČZR has left its mark throughout Israel, starting here with the Czech-initiated Masaryk Forest and the ongoing Masaryk Project, which brings Czech volunteers to work in the forests in the north of the country. In the center of the country they have
the Forest of Czech Martyrs in Mesilat Zion, and even farther down south there is the Czech Forest at Yatir. I must also mention the 2017 donation of the state-of-the-art TATRA fire truck by the Czech government
thanks to Michael's hard work, untiring efforts, and connections with important senior Czech government officials.”
Another person who has known Michael Pacovsky for many years and was also at the birthday party was KKL-JNF Chief of Protocol Andy Michelson. In an additional surprise, Andy arrived with some 30 children in tow from the kindergarten in Kibbutz Sarid, whom he met and invited while they and their teachers were looking for wild flowers in the forest. After equipping each child with a KKL-JNF cap, a KKL-JNF key ring, and other KKL-JNF paraphernalia, he gave the kids an eye-opening lesson about the Czech connection to the Masaryk Forest and about the person who was celebrating his birthday. Later he turned to Michael Pacovsky and said: “These kids represent the future and what you have been working towards. I felt that your birthday party would not be complete without them. I have witnessed how much you contributed to the good of KKL-JNF in Israel, to the Jewish community in the Czech Republic, and to Jews all over the world. It is with incredible pride and pleasure that I wish you all the best for your birthday from the KKL-JNF Executive in Jerusalem and from myself.”
Dr. Omri Boneh, Director of KKL-JNF's Northern Region, was next to bless the president of KKL ČZR on his birthday. Boneh was the official from KKL-JNF in Israel who was in contact with Michael Pacovsky to help facilitate the start of the Masaryk Volunteer Project after the great Carmel Forest Fire in 2010. “At the time I thought the project would run for one year. Now 9 years later I understand the fire was only an excuse to start the project and the real reason stems from love between our two peoples. I think, Michael, that you represent this love. I want to thank you for all you have done, and for all that you are doing. We have the same vision and the same goals and we will do our part in the partnership while working with you.”
Michael Pacovsky and his two sons Honza and David then read the planters prayer before planting three new trees in the Masaryk Forest. While planting his sapling, Michael Pacovsky said that he is still very surprised at what is happening. “I really was not expecting this. I truly did not know that I was coming to Israel to celebrate my birthday like this. My sons managed somehow to keep the secret from me. I am extremely happy to celebrate my birthday with my family and with KKL-JNF because I consider the organization as family too.”
The person who came up with the idea for this special KKL-JNF birthday party was another Michael, Michael Krauss, a family friend of Michael Pacovsky. Michael Krauss said: “We have the same first name and we are more like lifelong brothers than friends even though I was born in Israel. We only met after the fall of the Communist regime in Czechoslovakia. “My parents, who were both from Prague, met each other and married in the Theresienstadt Concentration Camp. Michael’s mother who was a good friend of my mother also got married in Theresienstadt to Michael’s father. The two couples survived the war but both of their entire extended families had perished. My parents managed to move to Israel while Michael’s parents remained in Czechoslovakia under Communist rule. Michael was born there and I was born here in Israel. Immediately after the fall of the Iron Curtain, the two families united once again and Michael and I met and became brothers. Our respective children also relate to each other as family. To cut a long story short I thought of the birthday idea. I spoke to Michael’s sons David and Hunza. They spoke to Judith and Omri Boneh, and here we are.”
Hunza Pacovsky, who works in his father’s law firm, said that he has the best father he could imagine. “I fully supported Michael’s idea for Dad’s birthday party. During his ongoing tenure as president of KKL ČZR, my father planted so many trees for other people. The time has come to plant in Israel for him too.”
Michaels Pacovsky’s younger son David Pacovsky calls himself “the black sheep of the family” because he is not a lawyer. David is the Czech representative of an Israeli engineering company, which is also based in Prague and in the USA. “Dad always told us that trees produce life and security in Israel. They not only provide fresh air and water but also give shade and physical protection. I think that is an interesting idea.”
Once the three saplings were firmly planted in the ground, Judith presented Michael with a KKL-JNF Certificate of Appreciation, signed by Danny Atar, World Chairman of KKL-JNF, which read:
“A tree was planted
in Masaryk Forest
by Michael Pacovsky,
President KKL-JNF Czech Republic,
on the occasion of his
This was another emotional juncture for Michael Pacovsky, who said with a smile and tears in his eyes: “This is the first certificate I have ever received from KKL-JNF.”
Michael and Judith then unveiled a huge plaque marking the tree Michael Pacovsky planted on the occasion of his 70th birthday. Everyone in attendance, including the 30 pre-school children, then sang for Michael a hearty ‘Happy Birthday to You’.