Norwegian King Harald V and his son, Crown Prince Haakon made a historic visit to the Jewish community center and synagogue in Oslo on Tuesday. Local Jews expressed hope that the royal visit will help alleviate the growing anti-Semitic trends in the country.
"About a week and-a-half ago the heads of the Jewish community in Oslo were notified of the royal family's planned visit," related Dvorah Geldman, World Bnei Akiva and Jewish Agency emissary in the country. "From that moment on the community has been very excited, plenty of renovations have been done and rehearsals for the welcome ceremony were launched."
Local child greets royals (Photo: Aluma Monnickendam)
Aluma Monnickendam, another emissary, explained that the Norwegian royal family has been investing great efforts recently in getting acquainted with minority groups in the northern country. "In recent weeks they also visited mosques and Muslim communities," she said.
The king and his son visited the local synagogue and Jewish nursery school, attended a Torah reading ceremony, listened to songs by the community's cantor and joined the kindergarten's children in song.
The congregation's rabbi Yoav Melchior read out a prayer for the king's wellbeing, which is recited at the synagogue every Shabbat, and told the story of the community's history.
Visit helps strengthen teens' Norwegian identityThe king also met with a group of Bnei Akiva youth guides, all local teens, who shared with him the difficulty of being a Jew in Norway these days. They told the monarch that their meeting with him helped strengthen their Norwegian identity.
In recent years anti-Semitism has grown significantly in the Scandinavian country and Jews no longer feel safe to openly profess their religion. Monnickendam said she hopes that the visit would help counter this alarming trend.
"In the 100 years of the synagogue and community's existence, not one member of the royal had visited here once," she said. "This year they decided to come as part of the royal family's efforts to promote coexistence.
"It was fascinating to see the excitement on the faces of the kids and the congregation members, it made me realize they are not only Jews, but also connected to the Norwegian culture and history."