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Thursday, July 02, 2009

A place where Israel and Jews are loved

One of the advantages of being a 'real' reporter/columnist is that unlike me, you get paid to write. Another is that occasionally you get to go places and it's called a 'speaking tour.' Michael Freund just came back from one, and he reports on a place where Israel and Jews are loved. It's in Europe no less. It's Finland.
But there is something else that distinguishes Finland, setting it apart from much of the rest of contemporary Europe, and that is the deep-seated love and admiration for Israel that exists among large sectors of the public.

On a recent trip to the country, which included a lecture tour in six towns and cities, I found what can only be described as a remarkable level of support for the Jewish state, one that cuts across religious and regional boundaries. From the capital of Helsinki to Tampere, Finland's third largest city, to the small town of Ikaalinen in the western part of the country, hundreds of non-Jews in each locale came out to demonstrate their solidarity.

There are churches where the Israeli flag is proudly displayed side-by-side with the Finnish national colors, and where entire Christian congregations recite "Hatikva" first in Hebrew and then in Finnish.

Literally dozens of Finns approached me to recount how proud they were to have spent periods of time volunteering in Israel at schools and in hospitals or on kibbutzim. They voiced great concern over Iran and its nuclear ambitions, and many pray for Israel and its welfare daily.

In Helsinki, Pastor Seppo Seppala approached me and, much to my surprise, engaged me in conversation in fluent Hebrew. He has been to Israel dozens of times, and continues to bring groups of Finnish tourists. And he is not alone. Without exception, after every speech I gave, there were always several non-Jews who came up to me and addressed me in Hebrew. Many take part in weekly private Hebrew classes, taught by fellow non-Jews, simply out of a love for the language and the people of Israel.

PARTICULARLY NOTEWORTHY is the fact that Finnish Christian support for the Jewish state is not the province of any one particular denomination, but rather it includes such diverse groups as Baptists, Pentecostals and Lutherans. However much they might disagree over theological or doctrinal issues, when it comes to Israel they stand united.
Read the whole thing. It makes you want to get on a plane and go for a visit.

Speaking of Christian support for Israel, make sure to check out this story in today's JPost. It's by a Christian friend of Israel who has spent a lot of time in Judea and Samaria. This time she goes to check out an 'outpost' called Givot Olam that happens to be the largest producer of organic eggs in Israel and a major supplier of goat's milk in this country. Definitely not your image of the 'wild west.'


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