Prince William’s first day in Israel was declared a success as he hailed Israel’s “essential vibrancy” and gave a personal commitment to keep alive the memory of the Shoah.
The Duke of Cambridge’s comments came in a reception hosted by British ambassador David Quarrey and attended by British olim as well as Israeli celebrities and politicians including Benjamin Netanyahu, Bar Refaeli, Tomer Hemed, Tzipi Livni and Isaac Herzog.
Wishing guests “Erez tov lekulam”, he told the gathering: “From the early stories of the kibbutzim; to the revival of Hebrew as a living, modern language; to the hi-tech economies that we see around us here in Tel Aviv – the modern story of Israel is one of inventing, creating, innovating, and striding confidently into its future.” That future, he suggested, lay partly in the message of projects like the British Embassy and UJIA-backed Equilizer programme which unites Jewish and Arab youngsters through a shared love of football.
He met participants in the programme earlier in the day and also received a rock star welcome at the beach in Tel Aviv, a city he described as “beautiful”.
On a day of start contrasts, he also visited Yad Vashem and laid his first public tribute to his great grandmother Princess Alice, who saved Jews during the Holocaust. “Her story is a matter of great pride for my whole family, he said. “I am well aware that the responsibility falls now to my generation to keep the memory alive of that great crime as the Holocaust generation passes on. And I commit myself to doing this.”
On bilateral relations, he added: “The ties between our two countries have never been stronger, whether in our record levels of trade and investment, our cooperation in science and technology; or the work we do together to keep our people safe.”
Turning to the thornier issues, he added: “Never has hope and reconciliation been more needed. I know I share a desire with all of you, and with your neighbours, for a just and lasting peace.”
Quarrey said: “You could see the incredible
excitement about the visit. He was taking time to meet people and doing exactly what he wanted to do to get a feel of the place. The Duke has been struck by the warmth of the reception today.”
The Duke discussed Tel Aviv beach with Refaeli and the perils of sleepless nights for parents of young children with prominent journalist Tamar Ish Shalom following the birth of Prince Louis. Former Eurovision entrant Shiri Mimon plans described HRH as a “cool guy” after the pair chatted about the X Factor and her upcoming role in Chicago on Broadway. “He said maybe I’ll come see you on Broadway so I’m waiting for him.”
She added: “I’m not political but it’s important to have such an important person here. For me when I’m out of Israel I feel like an ambassador. When he comes here and doesn’t want to talk about conflict it’s great to show the other side of Israel.”
New Board of Deputies President Marie Van der Zyl, who was joined at the event by chief executive Gillian Merron, said: “The Prince’s
speech was wonderful and clearly demonstrated his warm feelings towards Israel. It was such a proud day and unforgettable for Anglo-Israel relations “
Reform Movement senior Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner said: “I was delighted and surprised by the depth of the warmth that the Duke of Cambridge expressed. He moved seamlessly from the personal, talking about his grandmother Alice who was one of the Righteous Among the Nations, to the national and international. It was a total privilege and joy to be present.”