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Twenty-five Israeli professors recently signed a petition to support the archive of Czech writer Max Brod - friend, biographer and literary executor of Franz Kafka - being kept in Israel.

"Max Brod is part of the historical heritage of the State of Israel, an author and thinker who published innumerable essays on Zionism and who chose to live in Israel, after fleeing Prague because of the Nazis, for the last 30 years of his life," the petition says. Its signatories include renowned scholars such as professors Yehuda Bauer, Sergio DellaPergola and Otto Dov Kulka of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem; professors Dina Porat and Elhanan Reiner of Tel Aviv University; Prof. Gabriel Zoran of the University of Haifa; and Prof. Mark Gelber of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

The petition, which was written in Hebrew and in German and will be sent to media outlets in both Israel and Germany, came about as a result of the legal battle being waged in Israel over Brod's literary estate. The heir to the estate, Eva Hoffe of Tel Aviv, is negotiating the sale of the papers to a German archive. The state and the National Library in Jerusalem, meanwhile, are demanding that the manuscripts and other items remain in Israel.

For some weeks now, a campaign has been waged in the German media against allowing the estate to remain in Israel on the grounds that Israel lacks the knowledge, money and resources needed to take care of Brod's and Kafka's manuscripts, which are in German. Now the Israeli academics are responding to the claims being made by their German counterparts.

Nurit Pagi, who is writing a Ph.D. thesis on Brod for the University of Haifa, is the driving force behind the petition. "One reason Brod's wide-ranging works have not received the recognition they deserve is because his archive - which is 20,000 pages in size - has been inaccessible to scholars since his death in 1968, despite his request that it be given to the National Library," Pagi recently said.

"Now there is a one-time opportunity to correct the injustice done to him for many years and to allow Israeli researchers and others to shed new light on his work and his heritage," she added.

"As a native of Prague who at the Hebrew University is researching, along with my colleagues in Israel and abroad, its Jewish culture and history in all periods - in its languages, Hebrew, German and Czech - I strongly protest these hypocritical and outrageous claims that challenge our legitimacy to carry out these studies and to take proper scientific care of primary sources in general, and the estates of Kafka and Brod in particular," Dov Kulka said.