Last Word

Prague Summer: The Altneuschul, Pan Am, and Herbert Marcuse


In the summer of 1966, I visited Prague to attend an international Hegel conference. I had been to the city before, and was looking forward to being reenchanted by its historical ambience and mystical atmosphere.

My visit coincided with the yahrzeit for my father, and I planned to go to services at the famous Altneuschul, the beautiful old synagogue in which Rabbi Yehudah Loew, known as the Maharal of Prague, was supposed to have created a golem in the sixteenth century to protect the local Jews. I brought a memorial candle with me as well as a siddur, which I intended to leave at the synagogue, knowing how hard Hebrew prayer books were to come by in Communist countries.

There were no direct flights from Israel to Prague in those years, so I had to fly via Athens where I changed to a Czechoslovak State Airlines flight coming from Cairo. I found myself sitting next to an East German engineer working on the Aswan Dam project, who had never met an Israeli before, so our conversations were interesting.

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About the Author

Shlomo Avineri teaches political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. His latest book is Herzl: An Intellectual Biography (in Hebrew).

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