The Faroe Islands, an Unexpected Jewish Haven
By Barbara Bell - SUSSEX JEWISH NEWS February 2020 Issue 304:
If you are concerned about the rise in antisemitism in Europe then you will be encouraged to discover one safe haven that is actively pro-Israel and has a love for the Jewish people.
The Faroe Islands comprise a tiny archipelago rising vertically out of the North Atlantic Ocean.
The 50,000 inhabitants are scattered across the 18 islands in tiny villages and towns, some living in traditional grass-roofed wooden houses. Tórshavn, their capital, has just 13,000 people.
The winds in the Faroes are strong enough to prohibit tree growth, the fogs are famous, the landscape is breathtakingly beautiful and the waters are a fisherman’s delight.
Faroese have to live closely to nature, and do so with great respect. Although they are politically linked to Denmark, they have their own language, currency and governing body.It is surprising, given their demographics and geography, to discover they have a large, active friends of Israel group called the ‘Friendship Association of the Faroe Islands with Israel’ with over 400 committed members.
We spoke to their vicechairman, Danjal Poulsen, to find out more about the Association.
Danjal informed us that in 1948 many islanders were excited by the foundation of the State of Israel because the Christian hope of the return of Jesus as their messiah is linked to the Jewish return to their land. However, the Association was not formed until 1970.
Although the Association was once based on Christian values, Danjal is keen to make it clear that it is non-political and non-religious and all friends of Israel are welcome and included.
In fact, about 95% of the Faroese population is pro-Israel and any anti-Israel or antisemitic feeling in the press is a rarity.
Antisemitism is simply not part of their culture.
Leadership of the Association of friendship is shared as they organise many events throughout the year. Their most important event is the Holocaust Memorial Day.
This year, as a result of the Association’s work over the last 5 years, the Faroese government unanimously agreed to make the 27th January the Faroese official Holocaust Remembrance Day.Every year, on 14th May, Israel’s Independence Day, members of the Association organise a public celebration with Israeli flags, speeches and songs celebrating the birth of Israel.
All this takes place on the streets in the heart of their capital city. Hundreds of people attend. And, each year, on 28th and 29th July, the Faroese have a large cultural celebration called Ólavsøka. The association holds an open house in Tórshavn with exhibitions, refreshments, music and speeches, inside the house and in the public square outside.re can be seen on their website, www.shalom.fo.
This keeps Faroe islanders informed about the current affairs concerning Israel because, as Danjal says, ‘He who watches over Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps’.
The Association members also regularly dig deeply into their pockets as well as their time, to support various Jewish agencies, including United Israel Appeal.
Danjal explains that this is because, ‘There is something in the heart of people, deep, deep in the heart. They have a deep love for Israel and I am not sure they are all Christian.
I don’t think so.’ In fact, the United Israel Appeal agency is regularly invited to visit Faroese schools to speak to their children.
Israel is a popular destination for the Faroese to and there are two or three tour operators offering organised trips several times a year.
The Faroe’s main radio journalist summed up his visit to Israel, by saying that he had been to many, many places on earth but this was the best experience he had ever had. This sentiment seems to be echoed by all.
To find out more about the islands, check out the Israeli film maker, Omri Galperin’s film, ‘Faroe Islands, Heaven of the North’ on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K1spifS7PGM