The Prince of Wales began his first official visit to Israel on Thursday, attending the World Holocaust Forum, and undertaking engagements in Jerusalem.
As soon as Prince Charles landed—en route from Davos, Switzerland, and the World Economic Forum where he’d given a keynote speech—he met Israeli President Reuven Rivlin at his official residence, Beit HaNassi, for talks.
President Rivlin joked with the Prince of Wales, “We still expect your mother to visit!” referencing the 93-year-old Queen, who hasn’t undertaken long-haul travel in several years, relegating her visits to UK-based locations.
Prince Charles, who gave an emotional speech at the World Holocaust Forum at Yad Vashem, is one of over 40 world leaders who are in Jerusalem this week to attend the commemoration. President Rivlin said that Israel “deeply appreciates” that Prince Charles attended the Forum.
“It starts with the Jewish people but we never know where it ends,” President Rivlin said. “Everyone needs to be very careful. With this gathering, we show that when we are united we can fight this phenomenon.”
As reported in the Times of Israel, President Rivlin continued, speaking about Prince Charles’s grandmother, Princess Alice, “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.
“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.”Embed from Getty Images
After their talks, President Rivlin and Prince Charles planted an oak tree in the gardens at Beit HaNassi in a symbolic gesture to represent the oak tree planted at the Avenue of the Righteous Among the Nations at Yad Vashem—by President Weizman and The Duke of Edinburgh—in Princess Alice’s honour.
Prince Charles then attended a reception at The Israel Museum, where he met with two British Holocaust survivors, George Shefi and Marta Weiss, and their families. The Prince was joined by the Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth, Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis during his visit.
While meeting with George Shefi and Marta Weiss, Prince Charles heard about their experiences —Shefi with fleeing for safety to the UK after his mother was killed at Auschwitz and Weiss surviving Auschwitz. Weiss told reporters, “He was very interested in how it was in Auschwitz and how we managed to survive.
“He was very sympathetic. He came across as genuinely interested, not just doing it for the sake of it.”
Shefi said that he appreciated how many world leaders were in Jerusalem to mark this solemn anniversary but said, “I think it is very good. The question is, what will you do with it afterwards? Whatever they do here, if it is just forgotten tomorrow – that’s not what it was meant to do.”
Prince Charles then paid a visit to the Jewish Art and Life wing of The Israel Museum, then visited the Shrine of the Book wing, where he viewed the Dead Sea Scrolls.Embed from Getty Images
Per Clarence House, “The exhibition at the Shrine of the Book Complex represents a journey through time, which, adopting a scholarly-historical approach, traces the evolution of the Book of Books. The upper galleries take the visitor from the oldest extant biblical manuscripts, which were discovered in the Judean Desert, through the story of the sectarians living at Qumran, who attempted to translate the biblical ideals embodied in these texts into a way of life. The lower galleries tell the tale of the Aleppo Codex – the most accurate manuscript of the Masoretic text and the closest to the text of the printed Hebrew Bibles used today.
“The Shrine of the Book is a wing of The Israel Museum and was built as a repository for the first seven scrolls discovered at Qumran in 1947. The Dead Sea Scrolls are ancient manuscripts that were discovered between 1947 and 1956 in eleven caves near Khirbet Qumran, on the north-western shores of the Dead Sea.”
The Prince of Wales then attended World Holocaust Forum where he gave a moving speech, one of the only world leaders to do so; and finished the day at a reception in Tel Aviv at the UK-British Ambassador’s Residence.Embed from Getty Images
At the reception, Prince Charles watched a “unique demonstration,” per Clarence House, where he saw four “innovative, technological solutions in the fields of healthcare and sustainability” before mingling with the guests and signing the visitors’ book.
On Friday, Prince Charles will undertake engagements in Bethlehem.