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Research Projects

The rescue of Danish Jewry in the Israeli culture of memory
Inauguration of Dania Square in Beit HaKerem in Jerusalem, January 1962

One of the most persistent myths in Israeli Holocaust memory is the story of the rescue of over seven thousand Danish Jews in October 1943. A fishing boat became the symbol of this organized rescue that allowed the Jews to escape to neutral Sweden. Yet, from the 1940s until today, Israeli culture of commemoration has undergone considerable changes, reshaping attitudes towards the Danish people, the underground fighters and even the survivors. By examining the historical context of this rescue against the backdrop of the shaping of national ethos and how the myth bridged the gap between the past and the present, as well as between the horrors of the Holocaust and the morality of the rescuers, its contribution to Israeli identity becomes clear.   

For expansion

קרן-כרמל, אורנה (2019), "האמת האפורה: הצלת יהודי דנמרק בתרבות הזכרון בישראל", זמנים 141, עמ' 64-75 

Keren-Carmel, Orna (2017), "Another Piece in the Puzzle: Denmark, Nazi Germany and the Rescue of Danish Jewry". Holocaust Studies Vol. 24(2), pp. 172-182

Keren-Carmel, Orna (2016) "Like Lambs to the Rescue: the Survivors and the Rescue of Danish Jewry in the Holocaust". Holocaust Studies Vol. 22(4), pp. 339-356

Keren-Carmel, Orna (2020), "Scandinavia and Israel after the Holocaust". Nordisk Judaistik - Scandinavian Jewish Studies Vol. 31(2), pp. 41-59




Israeli-Swedish relations


Swedish Prime Minister Erlander with Prime Minister Ben-Gurion in Jerusalem, March 1962  

Prior to the Arab world's rise to power in the 1970s, Swedish-Israeli relations were considered excellent. Since then, relations have been problematic and unstable. Their relationship, however, has been marked by upheavals and challenges since the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948. 

What happened in the 1970s that soured the relationship? In the years following Israel's birth in 1948, very close working relationships and personal contacts were forged between Swedish and Israeli officials of the labor movements and trade unions, and they helped to reduce the frequent political disputes between these two countries. However, a steady deterioration in the relationship was caused by the gradual decline of the labor movements, both in Israel and internationally, in the 1970s. It is thus safe to say that the special relationship between the two countries was shaped by the connections that developed between the professional ranks, rather than between the political ranks.

For expansion

Israel and Scandinavia: the beginning of the relationship

Israeli-Scandinavian collaborations

Norwegian Prime Minister Einar Gerhardsen visiting the Afro-Asian Institute in Tel Aviv, November 1961

Throughout the years, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Israel have collaborated extensively. Israel's Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, recognized early on Israel's similarities with the Scandinavian countries, and tried to join the Nordic security community.

The Swedish-Israeli cooperation in international development aid is another example of long-term cooperation. For instance, three women founded in 1961 the Mount Carmel Training Center in Haifa: Inga Thorsson from Sweden, and Golda Meir and Mina Ben-Zvi from Israel. Not only did the center provide diverse courses to thousands of women from newly established African states, but it also provided training to Scandinavian aid workers before they were stationed in the south.

Also in the field of education, Danish influence was felt. Bet midrash lemorei am, founded by the famous Israeli philosopher Martin Buber in 1949, was designed to train teachers for adult education based on the principles of the famous 19th century Danish educator N. F. S. Grundtvig. As ever-increasing numbers of immigrants arrived in Israel after the establishment of the state, this type of educational institution was necessary to enhance national identity as well as language studies.  


For expansion

Keren-Carmel, Orna (2022), "Common Values, different Interests: Israeli-Swedish early cooperation on Development Aid". Middle Eastern Studies (accepted for publication).

The Nordic model

The Nordic model and Israel

The acute economic crisis that broke out in the 1930's caused most European countries to elect extreme parties to power - from both ends of the political spectrum. Nevertheless, in the Nordic countries (Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland and Iceland, which was then part of Denmark), a 'Third way' gradually developed, an approach positioned between capitalism and communism. Ultimately, as a result of extraordinary historical circumstances, this approach was branded the Nordic model, with several unique characteristics: a generous welfare state, democratization of society, adult education (Lifelong Learning), striving for gender and class equality, and a compromise-and-consensus-based political decision making process. In spite of its weaknesses, the Nordic model has become highly successful in tackling national and international challenges over the years.    

For expansion

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