Israel’s President has welcomed Prince Charles to Israel at the start of his first official tour to the country – telling him “we still expect your mother to come”.
The heir to the throne is holding talks with Reuven Rivlin at Beit HaNassi, straight after the King of Spain and just before Russian President Vladmir Putin.
More than 40 world leaders are in Jerusalem for the World Holocaust Forum at Yad Vashem, marking 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz. It is the largest international event in the history of the State of Israel.
Rivlin told the Prince that Israel “deeply appreciates” his attendance at the gathering, which he said was aimed at fighting racism and fascism today as well as recalling the past.
“It starts with the Jewish people but we never know where it ends. Everyone needs to be very careful,” he said ahead of talks.
”With this gathering we show that when we are united we can fight this phenomenon.”
Prince Charles has twice visited Israel unofficially for the funerals of Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin but this is the highest-level official Royal visit ever. Prince William visited officially two years ago when he also met Rivlin, who asked him to convey a message of peace to Rivlin.
“For me, this is a very significant experience,” Prince Charles said to the president. “Many of my teachers at school were Holocaust survivors and we are all deeply committed to combating antisemitism.”
“We will always remember how your grandmother, Princess Alice, who is buried here on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, saved the lives of many Jews during the Holocaust,” continued the president. “Britain stood firm against the Nazi threat. Many British servicemen and women fought with great bravery and liberated many concentration and death camps. And today British forces are on the front line in the war on terror in the Middle East, and we are together in this just war.”
The president added, “we appreciate your clear voice against all forms of antisemitism and intolerance. It is an important voice for the Jewish community in the UK as they face a rising tide of antisemitism.”
At the end of their meeting, they went into the garden of Beit HaNasi to plant an English Oak tree, a tribute to the tree planted in the Avenue of the Righteous Among the Nations at Yad Vashem by President Ezer Weizman and The Duke of Edinburgh in honour of Princess Alice, who is recognised as a Righteous Among the Nations for saving the lives of Jews during the Holocaust.
The president added, “In Jewish tradition, this time of year is known as the new year of the trees, where we celebrate the renewal of nature and the connection between humanity and the earth. The English oak is a sign of the strong relations between us and the importance of protecting the planet. We chose a line from the Book of Genesis, where God tells us in the Garden of Eden to protect the environment. You are a global leader in this.”
The Queen has never visited in her 67-year reign and is no longer undertaking long Royal trips. But Rivlin said: “We are still expecting your mother to come.” The President recalled how he was born as a subject of King George VI and how the British flag was replaced by the Israeli flag at the establishment of the state.
After 29 minutes of talks, Charles was given the rare honour of planting an English oak tree in the garden of the residence. It comes 25 years after Prince Philip also planted an oak in Israel in memory of his grandmother Princess Alice, who is recognised as Righteous Among the Nations at Yad Vashem for saving Jews in the Shoah.
Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, in Israel for the day’s engagements, joined the pair for the brief planting ceremony. While the planting by Philip was a remind of “deep sadness”, he said, “This is a symbol of hope and represents the laudable aspiration you both have for sustainable development across the world.” He expressed hope it would “sow the seeds of peace” in the region and the world.
Prince Charles plants english oak tree at Beit HaNassi, just as Prince a Philip did in memory of Princess Alice when he visited in 1993 pic.twitter.com/FWtBxeIp17
— Justin Cohen (@CohenJust) January 23, 2020