Prince William kicked off his historic visit to the Holy Land, where the highlight is Jerusalem. Although not deemed a political trip, it nevertheless has generated some controversy.
Prince William landed in Israel on Monday evening, where he was greeted by Israeli officials to mark the royal family’s first official visit to Israel.
William, who is second in line to the throne, is traveling without his wife, Kate Middleton, who delivered their third child at the end of April. He began his five-day Middle East tour in Jordan on Sunday. His visit is seen as a major test for the 36-year-old grandson of Queen Elizabeth due to the complex political and religious sensitivities surrounding his stay, especially in Jerusalem.
After he landed Israel, Kensington Palace tweeted in Hebrew: “Prince William arrives in Israel, on the first official visit by a senior member of the Royal Family.”
According to his itinerary, on Tuesday Prince William visited Yad Vashem, where he met with Paul Alexander and Henry Foner, two survivors of the Kindertransport, which helped bring European Jews to Britain prior to the outbreak of World War II.
“The Duke is interested in the contemporary relationship and the future. There will be a certain amount of history, but it’s not the focus of the visit,” UK Ambassador to Israel David Quarrey said last week.
Afterwards, he visited Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin at their residences in Jerusalem.
“We will receive today the Duke of Cambridge, Prince William, for the historic first visit in Israel of a representative of the British royal family,” Netanyahu said on Monday.
“I must say this is not exactly true because there is a representative, his great-grandmother Princess Alice, one of the Righteous of the Nations who saved Jews in Greece during the Second World War and requested to be buried in Jerusalem,” he added.
Israeli Tech and Society in Focus
William then attended a soccer match with Jewish and Arab children in Jaffa hosted by the Equalizer and Peres Center for Peace and Innovation.
Also on the itinerary was an undisclosed event in central Tel Aviv with the city’s mayor Ron Huldai and a reception at the British Ambassador’s residence to meet with Israeli start-ups.
On the second day of his visit, he will attend a cultural event in Tel Aviv and meet with youth at Beit Ha’ir Museum.
William will also meet with Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on Wednesday and attend a Palestinian cultural event. Later that day, he will address a reception at the United Kingdom’s Consulate in Jerusalem, where he will meet “a range of people from across society in the Occupied Palestinian Territories,” UK Consul General in Jerusalem Philip Hall said on Monday.
“The Duke will undoubtedly see and hear about the many challenges facing Palestinians,” assured Hall.
On Thursday, he will visit the Mount of Olives, where he great-grandmother Princess Alice is buried. He will likely tour the Holy sites in Jerusalem, including the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Temple Mount, and the Western Wall.
Visit Generates Political Controversy
As expected, William’s visit to Jerusalem has generated a bit of controversy. His official itinerary labeled the Old City of Jerusalem as “Occupied Palestinian Territory,” which some Israeli officials have accused of politicizing the visit. However, British officials dismissed these claims, saying that the terminology is “consistent” with longstanding British policy.
“The Duke is not a political figure,” said Quarrey. “He’ll be here to see a little bit of the country and to get to meet some of the people here. And also to get a flavor of Israel, to see what’s happening here—some of the extraordinary successes in technology, some of the great culture here. And he really wants to get under the skin of the country.”
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