JERUSALEM, Israel – Thursday's arrival of a pro-Israeli Swedish flotilla with some 50 evangelical Christians on board was like a breath of fresh air to many in Israel.
Upon arrival, Stephan Abrahamsson, owner of the yacht, Elida, told reporters, "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 out sorrow over this."
The day before the flotilla set sail on August 25, Abrahamsson announced the voyage and its purpose on his Facebook page.
Ready to set sail, Photo, Facebook, Stephan Abrahamsson
"We want to break the silence of the severe persecution and cleansing of the Christian population that is taking place in this region," he wrote. "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."
The crew and passengers aboard the 131-foot yacht will host visitors every day during their stay. They will also visit the Technion in Haifa, which some call Israel's MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology).
The Israeli Foreign Ministry will host the delegation for lunch in Jerusalem on Sunday, JTA reported.
For one day, Tuesday, October 16, the Elida will be docked at the Ashdod port.
Former Israeli Ambassador to Sweden Isaac Bachman called the flotilla a "solidarity with Israel marine voyage" that brought Swedish Christians who love Israel.
In Sweden's political and social climate, he said, it's uncommon to declare strong support for Israel out loud.
These Swedish Christians, who spent a month and a half on an ocean voyage to show solidarity with Israel, are welcome indeed.