President Reuven Rivlin sent Palestinian Authority leader a “message of peace” via Britain’s Prince William on Tuesday.”
Rivlin welcomed His Royal Highness the Duke of Cambridge to the President’s Residence in Jerusalem, marking the first official visit to the State of Israel by a member of the British Royal Family, shortly after Prince William’s meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Prince William’s father, HRH Charles, Prince of Wales, had previously visited Israel for the funeral of Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin. Charles had also visited the president in his residence after attending the funeral of Israel’s former president, Shimon Peres.
“It is a great honor and privilege to welcome you to Israel, to Jerusalem,” Rivlin welcomed the prince. “This land knows a lot about history; Today you are writing a new page in history. Many kings and princes have visited Jerusalem of the years, and you come not just as a prince but as a pilgrim to the Holy Land.”
Rivlin also noted asked Prince William to convey to the Chairman of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, during their scheduled meeting that, “It is about time that we have to find together the way to build confidence as a first step to bringing an end to the tragedy between us that has gone on for more than 100 years.”
Rivlin also stressed the importance of the freedom of worship in Israel, pointing out that Israel is “very proud of the freedom of worship for all those of faith. Jews, Christians, and Muslims are not doomed to live together, we are destined to live together.”
He added with a smile, “Israel kept many of the British customs and laws from the Mandate, but we did not manage to keep the same level of British football. I know you are a fan of Aston Villa, and I am a fan of Liverpool, but we can still talk about that during the World Cup.”
The President concluded by asking the Duke to convey his warmest greetings to Her Majesty the Queen, his father HRH Prince Charles, the Royal Family, and all the British people.
“Thank you for the warm welcome, Prince William responded, noting that it is his first visit to Israel. “I am obviously looking forward to getting to meet as many Israelis as possible, and understanding Israeli history and Israeli culture over the next few days.
“I had a very moving tour around Yad Vashem this morning, which really taught me quite a lot more than I thought I knew about the true horrors of what happened to the Jews during the war, and I very much appreciate the time everyone gave to show me around the museum.
“I, like you, look forward to understanding lots about the region and hope that peace in the area can be achieved.
“I am very much looking forward to really absorbing and understanding the different issues, the different cultures, the different religions, culminating in a visit, which will be very symbolic and very interesting in the Old City on Thursday, which I am very much looking forward to seeing.”
The President and HRH the Duke went on to hold an extended discussion. The prince also signed the official guest book of the President’s Residence. Rivlin presented Prince William with a moving and historic gift from the archives of the Yad Ben-Zvi Museum.
In the presence of the original, the President presented him with a copy of an album of photographs taken between 1850 and 1865 by Elizabeth Ann Finn, wife of the then-British Consul in Jerusalem. During this period, HRH Prince Edward – who went on to become King Edward VII – HRH the Duke of Cambridge’s great-great-great-grandfather visited the Holy Land. The album included pictures of the Prince’s visit in 1862, and a moving description of the welcome he received as published in the Magid Newspaper in an article written by President Rivlin’s great-grandfather, Yosef Rivlin, one of the leaders of the Jewish community in the Holy Land.
Presenting the gift to HRH the Duke, the President said, “One day you will be King of England, and I hope you will visit Israel once again with your wife and children, and be able to fill for yourselves an album of happy memories in this land.”
Prince William presented President Rivlin with a Liverpool FC shirt, signed by club legend and former team captain Steven Gerrard. The President thanked the prince warmly for the gift before walking him to his car as he departed the President’s Residence.