Diplomats, Israeli government officials, Israelis of Swedish descent and key figures in the blossoming Israeli-Swedish cooperation in high-tech met on Monday in the house of the Ambassador of Sweden in Herzliya to celebrate the National Day of Sweden, and as such the nation of Sweden and all of its aspects – its people, its art, its music, and its food.
The National day of Sweden celebrates the birth of modern Sweden with the election of king Gustav Vasa in the 16th century, which set the stage for Sweden to emerge as an independent modern nation out of the Danish-dominated Kalmar Union.
Upon entering the Ambassador’s home, guests encountered a modern demonstration of Israeli-Swedish friendship and mutual innovation – a robotic arm, manufactured by the Swedish ABB corporation in Israel, lifting up the flag of Sweden on one side and the flag of Israel on the other.
The celebration was a delightfully Swedish affair – With ABBA music playing in the background throughout the evening, meatballs and Swedish cider served front and center, and flowers bearing the colors of the Swedish flag dotting the courtyard and parlor.
In his speech, Ambassador Erik Ullenhag spoke passionately about the war in Ukraine, and the need for ‘the free world’ to act in Ukraine’s defense – “Ukraine has the same colors on its flags as Sweden – Blue and Yellow; Ukraine has the same dreams, the same European values”. He urged the Ukrainian ambassador to Israel, Yevhen Korniichuk, to remind the Ukrainian people that they have friends in Tel Aviv. The distinguished ambassador moved on to speak of the deep commitment of Sweden to fight for equality – “When I celebrate the National day… I celebrate democracy, I celebrate diversity… We are striving to create a society where it doesn’t matter the color of your skin, it doesn’t matter if you believe in god or which god you believe in, it doesn’t matter who you love”.
Ullenhag also spoke of the deepening ties between Israel and Sweden – of the great cooperation between the Israeli and Swedish high-tech industries (pointing out that the Swedish innovation agency has only two foreign offices – one in Tel Aviv, and the other in Silicon Valley), of the recent visit of Swedish foreign minister Ann Linde to Israel (the first Ministerial visit to the country in 10 years) as well as the deeper cultural ties between the two countries, such as the 50,000 Swedish volunteers who immigrated to Kibbutzim in Israel’s infancy, whose descendants were also present this very evening. Ullenhag repeated his, and his country’s, stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, advocating for a peaceful two-state solution. He also condemned the recent terror attacks against Israelis last spring.
The Ambassador also reiterated his stance on Raul Wallenberg, whose life and work were celebrated last week (read about it here), and stressed the importance of battling antisemitism and racism wherever it may be.
Ullenhag’s speech was followed by a speech from the minister of Diaspora Affairs of Israel, Nachman Shai, who once again stressed the warming relations between Israel and Sweden, in the form of increasing diplomatic, cultural and economic cooperation, as well as wholeheartedly agreeing with Ullenhag’s position on interventionism in Ukraine. Shai praised the Swedish government’s uncompromising approach to combating antisemitism (including the adoption of the IHRA definition of antisemitism), which he witnessed firsthand at the Malmö International Forum on Holocaust Remembrance and Combating Antisemitism last year, and pointed out that his own family had been rescued from the brutality of the Nazi concentration camp by the Swedish-led ‘White Buses’ operation, which successfully rescued tens of thousands of Jews and other prisoners from Nazi Germany and transported them to safety in Sweden.
Shai also pointed out the partnership between Sweden and Israel, as well as Canada, in advancing women’s rights – through a joint event in the Israeli pavilion in the Dubai expo, and through cooperation in the Commission for Women’s rights in the UN.
The two speakers also praised the Israeli-Swedish cooperation in matters of Climate Change, with environmental minister of Israel Tamar Zandberg having represented the nation in last week’s Stockholm+50 climate convention.
Among the esteemed guests attending the national celebration were David Castel, honorary Consul of Sweden; Tali Eshkoli, Eurovision Israel producer; Nadav Tamir, Senior Advisor for foreign affairs in the Peres institute for Peace; Roneh Aharon, CEO of ABB technologies (Israel Branch), who were responsible for the aforementioned robotic arm and Dotan Smith of the Israeli Immigration Authority.
Diplomacy.co.il congratulates the Embassy of Sweden on its national day and offers best wishes for peace and success.