In recent years, Sweden has been synonymous with anti-Israel bias, so it makes for a nice change of emphasis when a delegation of evangelical Christians docked in Israel with a message of support and thanks.
The boat, the Elida – a 131-ft yacht – is carrying around 50 passengers, who have come to Israel to present a different face of Sweden. Upon their arrival, the yacht’s owner, Stefan Abrahamsson, said, “It’s great to be here at last.”
Shortly after their arrival Thursday afternoon, Herzliya Mayor Moshe Fadlon hosted a reception for the passengers and crew.
The Israeli navy, accompanied by a fleet of Israeli yachts, escorted the flotilla to the Herzliya port.
“It was wonderful to see all the boats that accompanied us with the flags and music,” Abrahamsson said. “We will be here for 11 days. We came here because Sweden’s image in Israel is very bad and we are here to express our sorrow over this.”
In a Facebook post prior to the yacht’s departure, Abrahamsson was very clear about the rationale behind the flotilla. He wanted to draw attention to the plight of Christians across the Middle East, where they are persecuted, denied rights and in an increasing number of cases, killed for their beliefs. “As the only democracy in the Middle East amid dictatorships, Israel welcomes us on this show of solidarity with human rights, freedom of expression, freedom of religion and fundamental democratic values. In turn, we are taking a stand for the values that Israel stands for,” he added.
Former Israeli Ambassador to Sweden Isaac Bachman called the flotilla a “solidarity with Israel marine voyage” that brought Swedish Christians who love Israel.
The support ship set sail on August 25 from Gothenburg, Sweden. It is expected to anchor in Herzliya until October 22 – although it will dock at the Ashdod port on October 16. During their stay here in Israel, the ship’s passengers will host Israelis visiting the site and will travel throughout Israel expressing their support for the country