Donald Trump has recently expressed interest in the possibility of the United States purchasing Greenland from Denmark (Note: It is NOT for sale). While it is not exactly clear why Trump is interested, it may be related to the natural resources on the island (iron, oil, gold, uranium and more), which are becoming more accessible as global warming has led to huge ice melts on Greenland. What is a Jewish connection to Greenland?
A. The idea of the United States purchasing Greenland was first proposed by Benjamin Netanyahu in a meeting with Jared Kushner. Bibi suggested that the United States peace proposal could then include a land swap with the Palestinians, wherein Israel would get permanent possession of the entire West Bank, and the Palestinians would move to Greenland. Said Netanyahu to Kushner, “Instead of having Palestinians across the Green Line, I propose having Palestinians across the Greenland.” Kushner expressed interest in the idea, even as his real estate company was coincidentally in the process of purchasing multiple apartment buildings in Greenland as an investment. President Trump was not available for comment as he was meeting with advisors helping him finalize plans for Trump Greenland, a golf resort that will offer colored balls that are easier to find in the snow.
B. Peter Freuchen, a Danish Jew, was a medical school dropout who became a whaler and explorer (surely to the chagrin of his Jewish parents). During his travels, Freuchen lived with various Eskimo communities, where he learned more about hunting, fishing, and surviving in the difficult weather and terrain of Greenland. He also became fluent in various Eskimo languages, and as a result of his knowledge of the Eskimo peoples, he was appointed by the Danish government to be the resident governor of the Thule Colony on Greenland in 1913.
C. Jews had a long history of living in Denmark, having fled there after the Spanish Inquisition. In the early 1900’s, Theodor Herzl traveled to Denmark and met with representatives of the Jewish community and the Danish government, exploring the possibility of setting up a Jewish homeland in Greenland, a Danish territory. While the Danish government was open to the possibility of providing some land for the Jews, the plan was ultimately abandoned, as it was felt that the conditions were simply not hospitable and would not attract Jewish immigrants.
D. German forces invaded Denmark in 1940, at which point the Danish government negotiated with the Nazis, leading to more leniency from the Nazis than occurred in other European countries. But in 1943, the Nazis established martial law, and the risk of pogroms and/or deportations of Jews became real. Many efforts were made by non-Jewish Danes to protect their Jewish neighbors, including the establishment of a clandestine plan to send Jews on fishing vessels to Greenland to hide. This was one of many ways in which a high percentage of Danish Jews survived the war.
E. Erik the Red, the Norse explorer, founded the first settlement on Greenland. Erik, who was Jewish (real name Arik Ha-Adom), raised his son Leif Erikson there (real name Lev ben Arik), and Leif went on to found and serve as first president of Greenland’s only synagogue, Congregation B’nai Norvay Oy Vey.