Refugees or Returnees : European Jews, Palestinian Arabs and the Swedish Theological Institute in Jerusalem around 1948

Abstract: In this study five individuals who worked in Svenska Israelsmissionen and at the Swedish Theological Institute in Jerusalem are focused. These are Greta Andrén, deaconess in Svenska Israelsmissionen from 1934 and matron at the Swedish Theological Institute from 1946 to 1971, Birger Pernow, director of Svenska Israelsmissionen from 1930 to 1961, Harald Sahlin director of the Swedish Theological Institute in 1947, Hans Kosmala director of the Swedish Theological Institute from 1951 to 1971, and finally H.S. Nyberg, Chair of the Swedish board of the Swedish Theological Institute from 1955 to 1974. The study uses theoretical perspectives from Hannah Arendt, Mahmood Mamdani and Rudolf Bultmann. A common idea among Lutheran Christians in the first half of 20th century Sweden implied that Jews who left Europe for Palestine or Israel were not just seen as refugees or colonialists - but viewed as returnees, to the Promised Land. The idea of peoples’ origins, and original home, is traced in European race thinking. This study is discussing how many of the studied individuals combined superstitious interpretations of history with apocalyptic interpretations of the Bible and a Romantic national ideal. Svenska Israelsmissionen and the Swedish Theological Institute participated in Svenska Israelhjälpen in 1952, which resulted in 75 Swedish houses sent to the State of Israel. These houses were built on land where until July 1948 the Palestinian Arab village Qastina was located. The Jewish state was supported, but, the establishment of an Arab State in Palestine according to the UN decision of Nov 1947 was not essential for these Lutheran Christians in Sweden.  The analysis involves an effort to translate the religious language of the studied objects into a secular language.

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