Progressively Speaking: How important is the Duke of Cambridge’s planned visit to Israel?

Progressively Speaking: How important is the Duke of Cambridge’s planned visit to Israel?

Rabbi Mark Goldsmith gives a progressive Jewish view on a topical issue

Prince William
Prince William

Like the nearly 75 per cent of our community’s 16-year-olds who embark on an organised visit to Israel for the first time, Prince William will also make his inaugural visit to the Jewish state, this summer.

The Prince’s experience will be rather more comfortable accommodation wise than that of our teenagers, more King David Hotel than Yitzhak Rabin Hostel, and involve fewer late nights around the campfire.

Yet it will be no less significant to the growth of his understanding of Israel than it is to our teenagers.

There has never before been a state visit to Israel from Britain. Israel has not been among the more than 100 countries that the Queen has visited and when Prince Charles attended the funerals of Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin, and Prince Philip visited the grave of his mother on the Mount of Olives, there was no further interaction with Israel and her people.

Prince William is going to visit Israel, the Palestinian Territories and Jordan, according to the official announcement.

In doing so he is going to bring attention to lands which are inextricably linked to each other and which can thrive with peace between them.

Like anyone who wants to know Israel, rather than voice uniformed opinions, he will benefit greatly from having seen the land, met its people, experienced its complexities and witnessed its potential.

When our teenagers return from Israel they come back understanding why the Jewish state matters so much to Jews the world over.

If their programme has been deep and rich with discussion of the political situation, they will understand why Israel’s Arabs must thrive alongside her Jews and residents of the West Bank and why Gaza must also be able to live with dignity and progress.

Prince William’s visit is going to shine a spotlight on these issues and will show that Britain is committed to the future of the State of Israel, alongside the yet to be formed neighbouring state for the Palestinians.

If you don’t go to Israel you cannot know Israel.  If when you do visit you see only the Jewish aspect of the state, then you miss the potential of its mix of peoples and the example of co-operative living that Israel could present to the Middle East.

Prince William’s visit has the potential of bringing both to life for our fellow Britons.

Mark Goldsmith is rabbi of Alyth Synagogue

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