Some five years ago my life changed for good. There goes a very distinct line, forever dividing my life into a “before and after.” What happened to me was Israel.

I must admit I had always had a special “feeling” for the country — ever since I was a child. To be honest it probably had something to do with the Eurovision Song Contest – I always loved the Israeli entries…

In 2007, however, I made my first Israeli friends. I got to know them online, and as they were big friends of Sweden and Scandinavia, and had visited the Nordic countries several times, I was a little embarrassed to admit that I didn’t know much about Israel or Judaism. So I began educating myself.

The more I learned, the more I wanted to find out — and the more it all appealed to me. I got this “homey” feeling inside of me, and I guess that as a Swedish Finn, I always felt a little left out; I was too Finnish in Sweden and too Swedish in Finland (although in my book, there is little difference between the two). This situation has changed drastically in the past couple of decades, as the world has gotten smaller. But as a child, I never felt I belonged anywhere, and the feeling stuck with me through the years.

And then came Israel.

The following year, after my newfound Israeli friends visited me in Stockholm, I decided to take the trip that changed everything.
As I stepped out of the airplane and met the Middle Eastern sun, that September day in 2008, my entire soul was filled with a feeling of belonging. I know it sounds corny, but it was such an amazing experience! There I came, as a non-Jew, to a country with which I had no real connection, and suddenly I felt I was finally home. As I saw the many Israeli flags waving in the wind, and on my way from Ben Gurion Airport to Tel Aviv, I couldn’t keep my eyes from tearing up. From that day on, the Israeli flag has been “my” flag.

(Israeli flag image via Shutterstock)

Ever since that first trip, I have been back to Israel every year, and the feeling of belonging has never stopped. Israel is the only place where I always feel completely accepted, respected and, well, loved.

Three months after my first visit, Operation Cast Lead took place. By this time I had started reading Israeli news sites, and I had noticed that the Swedish media (almost) never reported about the ongoing rocket attacks from Gaza. This troubled me, and when I saw that Israel was being accused of, more or less, bombing Gaza for the fun of it, my own private blog started to turn into the pro-Israel blog it is today.

The hate that came my way, from my many ignorant countrymen who were commenting on my blog, shocked me — and in the past years it has only gotten worse. You are more or less expected to hate Israel, and if you don’t, well, then apparently you’re doomed.

A question that often comes up is “Why do you hate the Palestinians?”
It is as if you must hate someone to love another — a way of thinking I never quite understood.

I’ve been blogging non stop about Israel for the past four years, hoping that I can make people see a fuller picture. It hasn’t been easy, as most people have a very (un)clear picture of Israel (and the conflict – it sometimes seems that without the conflict, there is no Israel, since the ongoing drama is all people in general know anything about).

Earlier this year I wrote an op-ed on Ynet entitled A love letter to Israelis, and the impact took me by surprise. I received hundreds of e-mails — from both Israelis and friends of the Jewish State from all over the world (and a few not-so-nice ones, not surprisingly written in Swedish). As I was reading these wonderful emails from people, telling me about their thoughts on their homeland and their everyday lives, I thought to myself that everyone should have the opportunity to partake of these stories from ordinary Israelis. That is how I came up with the idea for my latest project: Letters from Israel. If you have a minute or two, please consider writing a “letter” for me to publish on my site. Anything goes: political, personal; perhaps even a poem. All the info can be found here.

I will continue this little fight of mine – spreading another picture of the country I love so much – on my Swedish blog, but I will update this new blog on The Times of Israel regularly, to let you know what is going on in Sweden and how your country is being portrayed here.

This first blog post of mine was an introduction.

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