On Aug. 19, the Elida V, also known as the “sailing church,” began its second trip to Israel. The top-performance mega yacht, known for traveling around the coasts of Sweden, is expected to reach the Haifa port on Oct. 1, coinciding with the Feast of Tabernacles.
The concept of the Elida “sailing church for Jesus” was originally birthed in 1963, by the Swedish Pastor Lennart Abrahamsson, who would bring his boat to beaches and fishing villages, providing Christian teaching and worship music.
The pastor decided that if people wouldn't come to church, he'd bring the church to them. At the time, Abrahamsson said he had received a prophetic message that one of his future ships would sail all the way to Israel, which it did about five years ago in 2018.
Today, 60 years later, the pastor's son Stefan is captaining the ministry's fifth ship.
Elida V, however, is the first of its vessels that is not a repurposed fishing boat, but a 131-foot sailing yacht, built from fiberglass by manufacturer Swede Ship in 2006. The ship has a 23-foot beam and a draft of 13 ft., powered by Volvo Penta engines, which allows her to reach a maximum speed of 12 knots (about 13 nautical miles per hour) and a cruising speed of 9 knots (about 10 mph).
The vessel is painted in the same blue and white colors as the first one was, now with the words 'Sailing for Jesus' emblazoned on its side.
The Elida V has now embarked on its second pilgrimage to the Holy Land since 2018.
Once again, the goal is to show support and love for Israel, as well as to highlight the increasingly desperate plight of Christians in the Middle East.
Back in 2018, the arrival of Elida to Israel caused a lot of interest among Israelis, with Israel's Ynet news reporting on the phenomenon of a ship arriving from Sweden, a country not known for its overwhelming support of Israel.
The event took place just two months after a very different Swedish-flagged ship had confronted the Israeli naval forces in an attempt to “break the siege of Gaza.”
The Elida docked at the Herzliya marina in central Israel, decorated with Swedish and Israeli flags while playing a traditional Klezmer tune 'Hava Nagila' and Israel’s national anthem 'Hatikvah.'
At the time, the vessel was greeted by Herzliya Mayor Moshe Fadlon, along with Israeli politicians, businessmen and academics.
“We met hundreds of Israelis who came to visit Elida,” Captain Stefan Abrahamsson wrote on Elida’s website following the 2018 pilgrimage.
“We were invited to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and to the Knesset, as well as to the Swedish embassy. We were invited to Christian Armenian Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem, and we gave many interviews to Israeli media.”
This year, Elida will dock both at the Haifa port and Herzliya marina, altogether remaining in Israel until Oct. 15.
Anyone will be able to visit the ship, talk to the crew, eat some cake and enjoy a cup of coffee. Visitors are invited to meet Swedish politicians, priests and pastors, journalists and other influential figures who will join the crew for the last leg of the trip when the Elida V sets sail from Cyprus to Israel.
Elida V intends to highlight the increasingly desperate plight of Christians in the Middle East, as well as stand up against growing antisemitism in Sweden and throughout the world.
“Israel is the destination of our journey because they are the only democracy in the Middle East where we are welcome with Elida,” according to its website.
“Surrounded by dictatorships, where human rights are constantly violated, Israel shines like a lighthouse in the night. The Jewish state shows the way to an ethically sustainable society, where differences are welcome within the nation, despite its many challenges."
"It is also the only country in the Middle East where the Christian minority is not decreasing but constantly increasing," the statement reads.
"For 75 years, democracy and justice have been the guiding star for the Israeli society. Israel is also the land that God promised to Abraham, and its mere existence is a testimony that God keeps his promises. When the modern State of Israel was created in 1948, God proved his faithfulness to his people – which shows that God keeps his promises.”
Elida’s planned journey is as follows:
Aug. 19 – Sept. 2 – Gothenburg (Sweden) to Lisbon (Portugal).
Sept. 3 – 9 – Lisbon (Portugal) to Cartagena (Spain).
Sept. 10 – 16 – Cartagena (Spain) to Palermo (Sicily, Italy).
Sept. 17 – 27 – Palermo (Sicily, Italy) to Cyprus.
Sept. 29 – Oct. 1 – Cyprus to Haifa.
You can follow Elida V's position live at any time at https://elida.se/om-elida/elida-just-nu/karta/
The vessel is scheduled to arrive in Athens, Greece by Nov. 11, after which it will continue to the Canary Islands, and eventually sail back to Sweden during the spring.
During the Swedish summers, Elida is still used for its original purpose and also hosts church camps and professional retreats. One of their faithful customers is the Israeli Embassy in Stockholm which often borrows the ship to sail with visiting guests around the Stockholm archipelago.
A special thanks to Leif Danielsson, who provided photos and background materials for this article.
Tuvia is a Jewish history nerd who lives in Jerusalem and believes in Jesus. He writes articles and stories about Jewish and Christian history. His website is www.tuviapollack.com