When the Swedish Chargé d’Affaires came and brought me the news that the Swedish Academy had bestowed the Nobel Prize upon me. I recited in full the blessing that is enjoined upon one that hears good tidings for himself or others: "Blessed be He, that is good and doeth good".  So said writer Shay Agnon, the first Israeli to win the Nobel Prize, in his historic speech at the award ceremony in 1966

He continued: "It is said in the Talmud (Sanhedrin 23a): " The honorable men in Jerusalem did not sit down to dine in company, until they knew who their companions were to be". So I will now tell you who am I, whom you have agreed to have at your table".             i

In that lofty speech, Agnon introduced the people of Israel to the King of Sweden and the Swedish public. In contrast, in this humble article, I will try to introduce Sweden to the orthodox Israeli public who loves to travel the world

Stockholm has a lot to offer tourists in general, and religious travelers in particular. Sweden is the third largest country in Europe. The capital Stockholm is a beautiful city.  The city has won the title of "The best city for photography enthusiasts". The city is built on 14 islands. We will discuss the important tourist sites later in this article, but we will start with Jewish heritage sites, which are less famous

The Jewish Museum

About a month ago, a Jewish museum was opened in Stockholm. For us it is an opportunity to visit the new museum, and by the way, also to walk in this charming old town

The museum is located inside a building where Sweden's first synagogue was opened in 1870. (The address: Sjalagardsgatan 19). For many years, this building operated as a police station that refused to evacuate. The Jewish community had difficulty to get it back. On the second floor of the museum, parts of the original synagogue was restored. The original women's EZRAT NASHIM wooden handrail stands on one of the walls

Next to the entrance we see the frame of the Holy Ark (HARON KODESH), standing about a meter from the wall. Originally, the frame was adjacent to the wall where there was a niche, in which the Torah scrolls were placed. But the police station blocked the niche with concrete. The booth later also added a podium for the Rabbi and cantor

In front of the Holy Ark we see four pillars between which stood the table for reading the Torah. The columns end with arches connected to the ceiling. In one of the upper arches between the two columns, left a section with the original colors and illustration that was once here. Also in additional walls we can find sections of the original illustrations, which were not covered with plaster and painted like the whole museum

The rest of the synagogue is dedicated to the history of Stockholm Jewry. The first Jew allowed to settle in Sweden was Aaron Isaac, a wealthy merchant who emigrated from Germany in 1774, even though Jewish residence was prohibited by law. He received a special personal permit from King Gustav III. Later he was also given permission to bring a rabbi and teachers for his children, a cantor for prayers, and other Jews were followed. This is how the Jewish community began. The Jewish Museum presents a manuscript of his memoir in which he describes his negotiations and struggles as a Jew, and then to open a Jewish community and a Jewish cemetery there. Finally, he succeeded in establishing what he calls the "Medinat Swedn". He wrote his memoirs in 1802 when he was 70. He had 13 children, all of whom died in their youth

Alongside Aaron Yitzchak's memoir is the Book of BRITH MILA. In the beginning, the order of circumcision prayers with beautiful illustrations, followed by the names of all the babies circumcised in the community. The list of circumcisions begins in 1780, and ends in 1838. It was not then that they stopped, but that all the pages in the Book were filled

Part of the museum's ceiling features a display of dozens of clothes hangers, with different names. The first Jews in Sweden were allowed to work only in the sale of second-hand clothing (Shemate Business). They were not allowed to engage in any profession except individual doctors. Initially, the Jews were dealing with peddlers, and later they opened shops and tailor-made workshops. Each hanger on this display is named after another clothing store owned by a Jew

The Jewish Museum has one wall labeled "No!". On it we see letters from Germany Jews who are asking approval to come to Sweden, for Holocaust saving. On all of the letters we can see stamped with the word "no". Exciting and irritating

It is a small museum in its size, compared to ordinary Jewish museums around the world. But every corner of the museum has a display and information next to it that we can keep up with for minutes. In the museum we can also first study the history of Swedish Jewry. 3 Jewish immigrations were to Sweden. The first immigration began in 1780, with Jews from Germany and Austria following Aaron Isaac. About a century later, the second immigration in 1880-1890 came from Jews fleeing the pogroms in Russia. The third immigration is that of Holocaust survivors who began arriving in 1944 onwards. They and their descendants now constitute the bulk of Sweden's Jewish community

One of the most important Jews in Jewish history was Joseph Lia Halevi, who arrived in 1840, and he also dealt with Shemate Business. His grandson opened in 1915 the first departments store in Sweden, the Nordiska Kompaniet. It was a prestigious and important department store, which opened more branches throughout Sweden. Today we can see many branches of the department with the symbol NK surrounded by a circle

The Holocaust Period

During World War II, Germany refrained from conquering Sweden, because the royal houses of Sweden and Germany were in marital relations, and the Germans adored the Swedes. Before the outbreak of the war, Sweden absorbed 3,000 Jewish refugee children from Europe in an operation called the "Kinder Transport." But when the war broke out, Sweden closed its doors to Jewish refugees

In 1943, the Nazis began to send neighboring Norway Jews to extermination. About 500 Norwegian Jews were sent to Auschwitz, and they were all murdered on the day of their arrival. A public protest arose in Sweden, and the government subsequently decided to open the gates for Jews. During the Tishrei holidays of 1943, a heroic operation took place in which dozens of Norwegian fishermen and yacht owners transported Jews from Norway and Denmark to the coast of Sweden. About 8,000 Jews were rescued in this operation

But at the same time as the rescue, the Swedes made themselves available to the German war machine. Trains with German soldiers and equipment crossed Sweden on their way to Norway. Sweden sold iron and oil to Germany for the war, and in return received gold plundered from Jews

One of the rich Swedish families who traded with Nazi Germany was the Wallenberg family. One of the family members, named Raoul, lived in Haifa in 1936, and was working in his family business. A sign in his memory was placed near his residence on 17 Arlozorov Street in the Hadar neighborhood of Haifa

When it became known in Sweden that the Nazis were beginning to transfer Hungarian Jews to extermination, the heads of the Jewish community in Sweden were looking for ways to save them. The method chosen was to fund representatives at the Swedish Embassy in Budapest who would grant Swedish passports to Jews. Kalman LaVar, a Hungarian businessman living in Stockholm, offered to impose the task on a man who was in trade relations with him, Raoul Wallenberg

Wallenberg arrived in Hungary as a diplomat on July 9, 1944. Together with his aides, he distributed Swedish passports, and other documents that provided protection to the Jews who held them. As mentioned, the Germans greatly respected the Swedes. According to the Swedish government's request, the Stockholm Jewish community provided names of Hungarian Jews with family ties in Sweden. With the help of Sweden's official documents, Wallenberg managed to save thousands of Jews until the Soviets conquered Budapest. The Russians imprisoned Raul Wallenberg, and he apparently died in the Russian prison

Wallenberg won the title of Righteous Among the Nations. Many streets throughout Israel are named after him, and in many monuments and squares in Israel and around the world

In addition, towards the end of the war, the head of Red Cross in Sweden, Polka Bernadot, organized an operation to rescue 20,000 prisoners from concentration camps. Only some of them were Jews. He also led the liberation of 400 Jews from Denmark who were imprisoned in the Theresienstadt camp, and the release of about a thousand women from Bergen-Belsen and Ravensbrück concentration camps, bringing them to Sweden. This operation was nicknamed "The White Buses" because of the buses he hired for the operation. One of them is on display at the 'Yad Vashem' Museum in Jerusalem

But we should not be enthusiastic about this "Tsadik". In 1948, he was appointed by the United Nations to mediate between the State of Israel and its Arab enemies. He was a very unfair pro-Arab mediator and used his authority against the newly born state of Israel and the IDF

In three places in the city of Stockholm, memorial 'Stolperstein' stones are commemorated in front of houses, in memory of Holocaust victims who lived there, and from which they were taken to Auschwitz

Wallenberg Square

In 1988, a study was conducted among Swedish students who revealed great ignorance of the Holocaust. The prime minister and the mayor of Stockholm were shocked by the results. They decided on a compulsory school curriculum. The square near the main synagogue was named after Raoul Wallenberg. It has a monument of statues in memory of the Holocaust victims, which contains a kind of coffins from which spirits or figures of people emerge

A memorial to Raoul Wallenberg was erected on its side. In it we see a large stone ball. In its center is written Raul Wallenberg, and in the upper part contains verses in different languages, but not in Hebrew. In 2011, this memorial was desecrated by anonymous who poured pig blood on it

From the stone ball, a path which is part of the monument leads to the synagogue. This trail is a railroad track that delimits a stone path. The railroad tracks are meant to be reminiscent of the rails on which Jews were led to Auschwitz

The stone path extends over 100 meters, ending at a memorial wall on the synagogue fence. On this wall we see 54 pillars, with the names of members of the Jewish community engraved. Above each name are engraved names of his relatives who were murdered in the Holocaust, with the dates of their birth and death, and the extermination camp where they were murdered. Standing against the wall is very exciting and sad. I was there with a group of American travelers of "Kosherica Cruises", and before we left I said "Kaddish" in memory of all the dead whose names are on the wall in front of us

The Central Synagogue

The main synagogue is beautiful and impressive. Most travelers are coming from nearby Wallenberg Square. One minute walk. The south wall facing Wallenberg Square is the back of the synagogue. The design is done in a style that reminds us of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, with a tall building and two pillars designed to symbolize Yachin and Boaz. A statue of a Jew holding a Torah scroll was placed in the yard

We bypass the building and reach the entrance gate. Nice and decorated place, but was locked when I visited

In the building adjacent to the synagogue are the offices of the Jewish community. Address: Wahtendorffsgatan 1-3. About 20,000 Jews live in Sweden, half of them in Stockholm alone. Not everyone is registered in the community because of the high membership fees. The community is very active and vibrant. It runs a kindergarten and elementary school, youth club, Bnei Akiva, nursing homes, and many lectures and Torah lessons

Stockholm has an area where the "Jewish Ghetto" was, where the Jews who escaped the pogroms in Russia concentrated. In the ghetto there are now the Orthodox synagogue and the Chabad house

Stockholm

On the island of Djurgården in Stockholm there is a street in honor of the State of Israel, called: ISRAEL AF STROHS VAG. And that leads us to general tourist attractions

In the east of the city is the salty Baltic Sea, and to the west of Lake Malaren with its sweet waters. About 2 million inhabitants live in Stockholm, out of the general population of 10 million in all of Sweden. The city lies on sea beaches. Lots of homes right on the water's edge. There are also many boats that are permanently anchored and are used for residential and even office use. There are also bathing beaches. Stockholm is a kind of open museum of fascinating architecture

Each year the prestigious Nobel Prizes are awarded in Stockholm, and thus some of the tourist sites are affiliated with Alfred Noble. He was the inventor of dynamite, and became very rich in explosives sales for mining tunnels and blasting rocks for paving roads. The armies discovered the deadly dynamite capabilities, and began using it for combat and mass killings

In 1864 Alfred Noble had a fatal work accident at his home. A small dynamite charge exploded, and four people were killed, including his younger brother. The local paper mistakenly published an obituary on Alfred Noble, instead of his brother Emil. The paper described his wealth and his contribution to death and wars in the world. Alfred read the obituary about himself, and was shocked by the negative legacy he would have left in this world. In his despair, he decided to "purify" his name a bit, adding to his will: "All my remaining property will be distributed as follows: The capital will be invested by the executors of my will, and will yield a fund that will give five awards each year to those who have achieved the greatest achievements for humanity." That's how the famous Nobel Prize was born

Every year, the names of the Nobel winners are announced at a special ceremony in this beautiful and large municipal building

The building was built from 1911 to 1923. The mosaic floor in the hall where the winners are announced each year, was donated by Joseph Sachs, a Jew who founded the NK department store. Other Jews also contributed to the building of the town hall, including Oscar Hirsch who donated the organ, and Yona Wolfzon who donated the statues in front of the building. Inside and in the magical inner courtyard is even more impressive than the outside

The Royal Nobel Prize ceremony is held every year on December 10 in the Blue Concert Hall on Kungsgatan Street in the city center

You should also visit the Alfred Noble Museum, where you can learn more about the man and his legacy. The museum has pictures of some 800 Nobel Prize winners over the years, and details of their achievements and heritage. The address: Stortorget 2

The old city

We take a walk in the old town called Gamla Stan. When we leave the Jewish Museum, we turn left into the alley, and reach the German church with the tallest spire in Stockholm

In the east of the old city we see the opera building dedicated to King Gustav III, and in front of it we see his statue. He was the first to allow Jews to settle in Stockholm because he valued the importance of education. The Jews were considered educated during his time in the 17th century. It was King Gustav III who gave Aaron Isaac permission to settle in Stockholm

From there we ascend to the Palace island of Helgeandsholmen. As we go up and down the nearby Riksdag Bridge, we see on the right the Swedish Parliament building

In front of us at the end of the bridge we see one of the walls of the royal palace. Here once stood the "3-Crown Palace", which was burned in 1697. The original palace was made of wood, and in its place was built this stone palace. The new palace was inaugurated in 1750 and has 608 rooms

We'd look for the Swedish flag on the roof of the palace. When we see the flag waving in the wind on the palace, it is a sign that the king or queen are there now. When they leave the palace, these flags are removed from the mast. It is also worth noting that the king and queen do not like to stay in this palace, so they purchased another palace outside the city in Brotninagholm, where they prefer to live in the wild. The palace in Stockholm is used only for official work

They are leading a social security network policy for the weak, and the Swedish economy is considered to be one the world's strongest. All over the world and in Israel, high quality Volvo and Saab Swedish made vehicles are driven by

The entrance to the royal palace is on the other side. We'd descend towards the river and the sea, turn right, and again right up the "Palace Hill". On the right we will see the entrance. In front there is an impressive statue of King Bernadotte. The current king of Sweden, Karl the 16th, is the seventh-generation descendant of the king Brandot. Inside the palace we can see the magnificent rooms, the Gustav III Antiquities Museum, the "Treasure Room" where the kings' crowns are stored, and the "Terra Cronor" museum for the history of the palace. From the outside we will see the Royal Arms Museum, which features weapons, magnificent carriages, armor, and clothing worn in historical events

At the end of the palace hill we see an old church. It was built in the Middle Ages. Only marriage ceremonies of kings and queens are held there. In the front of the church is a statue of Oleus Petri, who translated the Bible from Latin to Swedish

The streets of the Old City are narrow and paved with large stones, with large spaces between them. It is a pleasure to wander around there, but preferably without heels, which can get stuck between the big slots. The Old City walk is reminiscent of a trip to the Old City of Jerusalem or Acre. Old Baroque and Renaissance houses, some are 800 years old. The houses are more colorful and taller than the houses of Old Jerusalem. Their colors looks to me like a bowl of candy. Most of the alleys reach the sea. The salty smell of the sea mixes with the sweet scent of ice cream, and the flavors of coffee sold here in every restaurant or bar

The highest place on the island is Store Square. In it we see the Storkyrkan Church, where Sweden's kings are crowned. On the other side of the river we will see the Riddarholmen Church, established in the Middle Ages. The royal family was buried under the floor of the church from 1200 until 1950. It is no longer used as a chapel, so we are allowed to get in and impressed

In one of the Old City's alleys is an up-to-date history museum, which replaces exhibits every two months. When I visited Stockholm, there was an exhibition in memory of the Holocaust. Most of the display is of interesting paintings of Holocaust prisoners painted inside the Nazi camps

Vasa Museum

One of Stockholm's tourist attractions is the Vasa Museum. The Naval Museum was built around a warship with sails. A ship built with great luxury, with many different sculptures and ornaments. To us, this seems strange because Israeli naval ships try to comoflage and not to stand out, but in the ancient world the ships were meant to demonstrate size and wealth that would frighten the enemies. This ship was built by the Swedish King Vasa, and is one of the most magnificent in its time. The ship was launched for the first sailing in 1628, and after 20 minutes it sank in the dips. A shorter cruising than the Titanic. For more than 300 years, its remains were searched for, until it was discovered in 1956. Around the ship they built big museum building. The lighting is dim inside, to keep the ship alive

Even in this ship we can find Jewish aspects. At its stern there are figures that symbolize Gideon's soldiers from the Bible. Just below them is a statue of King David playing the harp. The address: Galärvarvsvägen 14

On the other side of the parking lot is the Nordic Museum, which presents 16th-century Swedish life. Nearby is also the "Abba Museum" in honor of the most popular chorus band in the 1970s. The museum showcases the band's original costumes in their Eurovision shows, their gold records, and other prizes. In the background, their bug hits are constantly playing. The address: Djurgårdsvägen 68

And if after all that, we still have free time, I recommend sailing the Stockholm Archipelago. The archipelago has about a thousand charming little islands, most of them forested, and some are just a rock that protrudes above the surface of the water. Most of the ferries go cruising down the Palace Hill and the Parliament Bridge

Tip: It is worthwhile to buy a 'Stockholm Card' that allows us to travel freely in Stockholm's public transport, cruise, and free entry to 75 museums and tourist attractions

Shay Agnon ended his speech at the Nobel Prize ceremony: "He who giveth wisdom unto the wise and salvation unto kings, may He increase your wisdom beyond measure and exalt your sovereign. In his days and in ours, may Judah be redeemed, and Israel dwell in safety. May a redeemer come to Zion, may the earth be filled with knowledge and eternal joy for all who dwell therein, and may they enjoy much peace. May all this be God’s will. Amen!”.            i

Of this blessing spoken in Sweden, we have nothing to say but … "Amen!"         i

 

Thanks to the Swedish Embassy in Israel and the Stockholm Tourism Bureau

who obtained the knowledge to write this article

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