At the end of a jammed-packed day that took him from Yad Vashem to the Prime Minister’s Residence, President’s Residence and the Frishman Beach in Tel Aviv, Prince William said Israel’s “remarkable story” is one of remembering the past but “also looking forward to a much more hopeful future.”
Speaking at a reception in the garden of the British ambassador’s residence in Ramat Gan, William – the first member of the Royal Family making a formal visit to Israel – said “the ties between the United Kingdom and Israel have never been stronger.”
In brief prepared remarks, standing alongside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Duke of Cambridge underlined cooperation in the economy, in science and in security. The two countries have much in common, he said: “Two open societies that thrive on innovation, diversity, talent and excellence.”
He also hailed “an essential vibrancy to this country.”
William, who will travel to Ramallah on Wednesday, said, “The region has a complicated and tragic history. In the past century, the people of the Middle East have suffered great sadness and loss. Never has hope and reconciliation been more needed.”
“I know I share a desire with all of you, and with your neighbors, for a just and lasting peace,” he said. “The United Kingdom stands with you, as we work together for a peaceful and prosperous future.”
Netanyahu did not speak at the reception, where he and the prince viewed a small display of Israeli hi-tech innovation. Among the 350 invited guests at the reception were MKs, cabinet ministers, and celebrities such as Bar Refaeli, Shiri Maimon and Ivri Lider.
Netanyahu, along with his wife, Sara, greeted William at their residence in Jerusalem earlier in the day, and introduced him to descendants of the Jewish family that his great-grandmother, Princess Alice, hid in Athens during the Holocaust.
“You must be very very proud of your great grandmother who saved defenseless Jews, and I can tell you that I am very proud that Jews are no longer defenseless,” Netanyahu said, as William nodded.
William met the Netanyahus for nearly an hour following a trip to Yad Vashem, where he toured the museum, laid a wreath in the hall of remembrance and met two survivors from the Kindertransport. There he wrote in the guest book that his visit was “profoundly moving.”
“It is almost impossible to comprehend this appalling event in history. Every name, photograph and memory recorded here is a tragic reminder of the unimaginable human cost of the Holocaust and the immense loss suffered by the Jewish people,” he wrote. “The story of the Holocaust is one of darkness and despair, questioning humanity itself. But the actions of those few who took great risks to help others are a reminder of the human capacity for love and hope. I am honored that my own great-grandmother is one of these Righteous Among the Nations.”
William’s great-grandmother, Princess Alice of Greece, hid Rachel Cohen – the widow of a former member of the Greek parliament – and two of her children in Greece during the Holocaust. She is buried in Jerusalem, and William will visit her grave on Thursday.
“We must not forget the Holocaust – the murder of six million men, women and children, simply because they were Jewish,” William wrote. “We all have a responsibility to remember and teach future generations about the horror of the past so that they can never reoccur. May the millions of Jewish people remembered by Yad Vashem never be forgotten.”
At the reception, William spoke of his visit to Yad Vashem, and said he is “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.”
The prince toured the Yad Vashem Museum accompanied by Yad Vashem chairman Avner Shalev and Britain’s Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis.
After meeting Netanyahu, William held a meeting with President Reuven Rivlin, who asked him to pass on a message of peace to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, whom he will meet on Wednesday.
Afterwards, in a short window of some 20 minutes, Prince William got a whirlwind introduction to Tel Aviv beach culture during a visit with Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai to the popular and ever-bustling Frishman Beach.
The two watched a spot of footvolley before climbing up the steps of the lifeguard tower for a good view of the sea. The duke then returned to the sand where top Israeli surfers Lee Korzits, Omri Hazor and Shushu Aharoni were waiting for a scheduled chat with him.
On his way over to them, the prince made the effort to stop and talk to people watching and cheering from the sidelines before telling them to “enjoy the beach.”
William told Huldai he was sorry he hadn’t brought his swimming trunks to such a beautiful beach and the mayor presented the prince with flip flops and a towel.
The three surfers had brought white, red and blue surf boards to the beach in honor of the British flag and they waited for William around a plate of watermelon and Bulgarian cheese – a popular Israeli beach snack.
Taking to The Jerusalem Post ahead of the duke’s arrival, windsurfing champion Korzits said she was excited to meet William, and quipped that felt like she was about to meet a character from Game of Thrones, a fantasy drama TV series that features many British actors playing royals.
William discussed with the surfers youth empowerment and environmental protection, both causes supported by him and his brother, Prince Harry.
He then joined a short game of footvolley before heading to the next location on his itinerary.
Earlier in the afternoon, William attended a soccer game sponsored by The Equalizer and Peres Center for Peace and Innovation, with the participation of dozens of Jewish and Arab children at the Neve Golan Stadium in Jaffa.
During the event, William took part in a penalty shootout, scoring two out of three attempted goals.
Peres Center for Peace and Innovation chairman and the son of Shimon Peres, Chemi Peres, presented the prince with his father’s book No Room for Small Dreams.
The prince told Peres how important it had been to his father, Prince Charles, to attend the late president’s funeral.
“We thank you for your visit and we are proud to continue the legacy of peace and coexistence in Israel, through sports,” Peres told William.•