Havel praised as 'voice of freedom' by Israeli leader

Vaclav Havel

Vaclav Havel

The Israeli President has paid tribute to the late leader of the Czech Republic.

Playwright turned politician Vaclav Havel, who died on Sunday at the age of 75, led the nation as it moved from Communism to democracy.

Shimon Peres described Mr Havel as a friend of Israel and a personal friend, and said he was like nobody else.

He said: "He is a loss for the entire world, the Czech people, Western civili s ation and human freedom."

"He spoke with internal conviction, unusual honesty, that penetrated and unified hearts," he added. "Havel was on one hand steadfast in his opinions, but he had a pleasant manner. His voice will still be heard even if he himself is no longer with us."

Mr Havel, a dissident leader who was imprisoned during by the Communist government, led his people during the Velvet Revolution of 1989.

A longtime smoker, he had battled with lung complaints for many years.

Mr Peres said there was "only one Vaclav Havel", adding: "He was a lonely voice of freedom and a voice of unity for the suffering people of the world. He was many things at once: writer, philosopher king and president."

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent a condolence message to the Czech a mbassador to Israel, in which he praised Mr Havel for resuming "the deep friendship between the Czech and Israeli peoples".

He said Mr Havel was "a brave and strong voice against totalitarianism and an inspiration to those fighting for freedom around the world.

"He was a true friend of Israel and in recent years, acted along with other world leaders to defend Israel against attempts to delegitimise the only state of the Jewish people. We will all miss his courage and his faith in the justice of his path."

World Jewish Congress (WJC) President Ronald S. Lauder has eulogized former Czech President Vaclav Havel, who died on Sunday at the age 75, as one of the most inspiring political leaders of our time.

Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress, said of Mr Havel: "With a tremendous vision and despite the great deal of suffering he had had to endure, Vaclav Havel led Czechoslovakia out of the grey days of Communism and helped to turn it into a free and respected nation.

"His commitment to reinvigorating Jewish life, so badly affected by the Holocaust and decades of Communist neglect, was second to none. Vaclav Havel was not only greatly admired by Czechs but also by Jews around the world. We will cherish his memory."

Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, president of the Conference of European Rabbis, said Mr Havel was "the emblematic symbol of peaceful change from totalitarianism to democracy" in eastern and central Europe.

Last updated: 5:47pm, December 19 2011