Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Prince William in Israel Marks His New Key Role for the Queen, as well as Marking Israel's Growing Key Role in the Middle East and the World

TODAY'S NEWS IS ABOUT PRINCE WILLIAM'S HISTORIC AND TIMELY VISIT TO ISRAEL. • • • PRINCE WILLIAM GOT A LOT OF ADVICE BEFORE ARRIVING IN ISRAEL. A week ago, long before Prince William arrived in Israel on Monday, JTA's Josefin Dolsten gave William 5 things to remember about Israel. (1) Dolsten pointed out that, despite the media hype, William’s visit to Israel is not the first by the royal family. William’s visit is being billed as the first "official" one. Prince Phillip, William’s grandfather, visited the country in 1994 for a ceremony honoring his mother, Princess Alice, for her sheltering of a Jewish family during World War II. Phillip accepted the Righteous Among the Nations award on behalf of his late mother and planted a maple tree in her memory at Yad Vashem. Prince Charles, William’s father, visited Israel to attend the funerals of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995 and President Shimon Peres in 2016. (2) William will visit his great-grandmother’s grave on the Mount of Olives. Princess Alice of Battenberg has a special connection to the Jewish people. Alice, who was married to Prince Andrew of Greece, helped shelter three members of the family of a late Greek-Jewish politician in her palace in Athens during World War II. The Gestapo was suspicious of Alice, even questioning her, but the princess, who was deaf, pretended not to understand their questions. Alice later became a nun. Before her death in 1969, she said she wanted to be buried at the Convent of Saint Mary Magdalene on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, near where one of her aunts, Grand Duchess Elizabeth Fyodorovna, was laid to rest. Alice was buried initially at Windsor Castle. However, in 1988, her remains were transferred to Jerusalem. In 1993, the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in Israel named her a Righteous Among the Nations for her war-era bravery. (3) Jerusalem is not Occupied Palestinian Territory, as was noted in William's official schedule, which listed Jerusalem as being in the “Occupied Palestinian Territories.” Zeev Elkin, the Israeli Cabinet member in charge of Jerusalem , called on William’s staff to correct the itinerary. Elkin said : “United Jerusalem has been the capital of Israel for 3,000 years and no distortion in the tour itinerary can change that reality. I expect the prince’s people to correct the distortion.” All is silence on this. (4) Prince William will stay at the historic King David Hotel. Opened in 1931, the King David has played a pivotal role in Israel’s history. The hotel has hosted royalty and heads of state, including King George II of Greece, who set up his government there in 1942 when the Nazis occupied his country. During the British Mandate, the hotel’s southern wing was turned into British administrative and military headquarters. In 1946, the hotel was the target of a bombing by the Irgun Zionist paramilitary group that killed 91, including 15 Jews. Two years later the hotel became a Jewish stronghold, as Israel declared its independence. (5) There’s a tattoo parlor in Jerusalem’s Old City where several royals are said to have been inked. If William has any desire to get a tattoo, Razzouk seems like the obvious choice. King Edward VII, King George V and Prince Albert are all said to have been inked there with Jerusalem crosses. The shop, run by the Razzouk family for some 500 years in the Christian Quarter, is popular among visitors to the city. The family uses wooden block stamps, some of them hundreds of years old, to stamp religious symbols onto the skin before the tattooing process begins. Tattoo artist Wassim Razzouk offered to do the tattoo should William be interested, telling Haaretz “it would be a great honor.” • Then came the lessons William should take away form his visit. These were provided by's Dr. Yvette Alt Miller, who noted that : "Starting on Tuesday, June 26, Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, will spend three days touring Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, visiting with Israeli and Palestinian politicians, and attending a ceremony at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial. His visit has already sparked controversy, and his every move seems sure to be scrutinized. As William tours the Jewish state, here are five lessons about Israel that I sincerely hope he takes back home with him to London." (1) "Israel is the eternal homeland of the Jewish people. Prince William’s trip is taking place at a momentous time in Britain, when the government has gone out of its way to emphasize its support for the existence of a Jewish homeland. 101 years ago, the British government declared its official support for 'a national home of the Jewish people' in the land of Israel in the Balfour Declaration. In 2017, some called for Britain to disavow this century-old commitment. Instead of doing so, Britain doubled down on its historic support for a Jewish homeland in Israel. Sajid Javid, a British Moslem cabinet secretary, spoke for millions of Britons when he declared, 'To apologize for the Balfour Declaration would be to apologize for the existence of Israel and to question its right to exist.' He said Britain would celebrate the Balfour Declaration “with pride.” Prince William’s visit seems to be part of that spirit of celebration, at long last normalizing British royals’ relationship with Israel. When William visits the Western Wall in Jerusalem, he will be standing at the site where the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem once stood, the very heart of the capital of the Jewish state for the past 3,000 years. Prince William’s visit will also highlight the urgent need for a Jewish state today. On his visit he’ll meet Jews whose ancestors fled from over 100 countries, all seeking safety to live as Jews in the Jewish state. When he tours Yad Vashem, Prince William will help memorialize the millions of Jews who were murdered just a generation ago because they had no national homeland willing to take them in." (2) "Israel is a bastion of civil rights and religious freedom. One of the many 'Righteous Among the Nations' heroes memorialized at Yad Vashem is none other than Prince William’s own great-grandmother, Princess Alice. She was a daughter of Queen Victoria who married a Greek prince, later eschewed her royal family, and during the Holocaust sheltered her Jewish friend Rachel Cohen, as well as her two sons in her Athens apartment. After the war, Princess Alice turned her back on royal life and became a nun. She is buried in the Church of Mary Magdalene in Jerusalem, and Prince William plans to lay a wreath there on his visit." Dr. Miller points out that William will notice that Christians are free to practice their faith unencumbered in Israel, just like all of Israel’s ethnic and religious groups because "freedom of religion and non-discrimination are built into the very legal framework on which the State of Israel was founded. All of Israel’s citizens enjoy this protection. In addition, thousands of Christian pilgrims visit the Jewish state each year. In 2009, Israel opened a historic 40 mile hiking and walking trail through Israel’s breathtaking countryside, incorporating Christian sites. The network of trails, information centers, refreshment areas and other amenities sends a message to Christians around the world that they are valued and welcome in the Jewish state. At a time when Christians find themselves under attack from Islamist extremists in much of the Middle East -- including areas under Palestinian Authority control -- Israel’s freedom of religion and vigorous guarantee of all its citizens’ safety is more important than ever." (3) "Israel is one of the world’s great tourist destinations." That’s what Travel and Leisure magazine said when it rated Jerusalem one of the world’s top ten not-to-be-missed cities to visit. Prince William is staying at the King David, described by the UK Daily Telegraph as a “luxurious retreat overlooking Jerusalem’s Old City, featuring elegant interiors, spacious rooms, a fine dining restaurant and spectacular views.” In 2017, Forbes magazine ran an article titled “Why Israel Might Just Have the World’s Best Restaurant Scene.” Dr. Miller says : "With vibrant art and music, wonderful restaurants, world-class hiking and historical sites, and some of most spectacular beaches on the planet, Israel is a vibrant tourist destination. Word seems to be getting out : 2017 saw 3.6 million tourists sample the pleasures of the Jewish state, a 25% increase in visitors from the previous year. The number of visitors in 2018 is higher than ever, and seems set to surpass last year’s record." (4) Israel, like the younger royals, is forward-looking, says Dr. Miller : "Prince William and his brother Prince Harry have broken with a number of old-fashioned royal conventions and are charting their own paths in the modern, multicultural world. Prince Harry recently married Meghan Markle, a mix-raced divorcee who is older than Harry, something unthinkable for a British prince just a few years ago. Prince William’s wife Kate was born a commoner; the royal couple had to battle incredible prejudice and snobbery to be together. Given his trailblazing credentials, it’s likely that Prince William will appreciate Israel’s forward-thinking sensibilities as well. Israel is the sole country in the Middle East that guarantees universal education, health care, equal rights, protections for minorities, and extends the vote to all citizens, regardless of gender, religion or ethnicity. A robust and independent press and independent courts ensures that Israel remains one of the freest and most open societies on earth. Ironically, although Israel is often bashed as an 'apartheid state' and derided in some quarters, nothing could be further from the truth." As Sarah Zoabi, an Israeli Arab who appeared on the Israeli TV show “Master Chef” declared on national television : “I want to say to all the Arabs of Israel...We live in Paradise. Compared to other countries, to Arab countries -- we live in paradise.” It’s a sentiment that many Israelis -- including Israeli Arabs -- share. And, Israeli women make up 60% of students completing a bachelor’s degree, 61% of students completing a master’s degree and 50% of students completing a doctorate. Israel’s Knesset is over 28% female, and 54% of judges in Israel are women. As Prince William will no doubt discover, that Israel is in tune with the modern world and its emphasis on human rights and freedoms. (5) The world is beginning to appreciate Israel more than ever. Prince William has long been on the cutting edge of social trends, and his visit to Israel shows that the savvy prince can gauge public sentiment. His 2018 visit will coincide with a Gallup poll that recently showed nearly three quarters of Americans have a favorable view of Israel, a near record number. According to Dr. Miller : "In Prince William’s native Britain, public perceptions of Israel seem a little more complex. A 2015 survey about Britain’s attitudes towards Israel showed that Israel was seen both as one of the least admired countries by Britons, and also one of the most admired. Chatham House, a London- based think tank found that while some British people regarded Israel as the world’s second worst country (behind only North Korea), another cohort of Britons ranked it as the world’s 8th most admired nation. It seems that while some people in Britain really dislike the Jewish state, a large number take a more clear-eyed view, and appreciate Israel’s many admirable qualities." • If that sounds like a travelogue for Israel, it is, but we should note that Yvette Alt Miller earned her BA at Harvard University, her Postgraduate Diploma in Jewish Studies at Oxford University, and has a Ph.D. In International Relations from the London School of Economics. She lives with her family in Chicago, and has lectured internationally on Jewish topics. Her book Angels at the table: a Practical Guide to Celebrating Shabbat takes readers through the rituals of Shabbat and more, explaining the full beautiful spectrum of Jewish traditions with warmth and humor. It has been praised as "life-changing", a modern classic, and used in classes and discussion groups around the world. So, with Dr. Miller, "let’s hope that Prince William’s visit helps his compatriots – and people around the world -- see Israel for what it really is: a vibrant, open, modern society that guarantees human rights and religious freedoms for all its citizens -- a place where history is palpable, where visitors from around the world meet – and the eternal homeland of the Jewish people." • • • WILLIAM SEES A LOT OF ISRAEL. With that as prelude, what has Prince William done so far while in Israel in his trip for the British government, which has reversed British policy not to make an official royal visit until the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was resolved. British officials have given no detailed explanation for the change in policy. • Israel Hayom reported on Wednesday about William's visit : "In Israel, Prince William says he looks forward to meeting as many Israelis as possible, understanding Israeli history and culture." Following his engagements in Jerusalem, William went to Tel Aviv where he was met by the city's mayor, Ron Huldai. Sporting sunglasses and an open-necked shirt, the Duke of Cambridge strolled along the Mediterranean shore, chatting with beach-goers and quipping, "I should have brought my swimming trunks." Together, William and Huldai watched a beach volleyball game and checked out a lifeguard station. William took in a Jewish-Arab youth soccer game, and met Eurovision winner Netta Barzilai. • Speaking at a reception in his honor at the British Ambassador's Residence in Tel Aviv at Ramat Gan, William said his visit to Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and museum in Jerusalem had been a "profoundly moving experience." He told dignitaries, including Prime Minister Netanyahu, that he was "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." After a brief opening greeting in Hebrew, William said, "Israel's remarkable story is partly one of remembering its terrible past but also looking forward to a much more hopeful future...the modern story is one of inventing, creating, innovating and striding confidently into its future." William then joined the Netanyahus in viewing an exhibit on the technological developments of four Israeli companies. • Earlier in Jerusalem, at Yad Vashem Holocust Museum, the prince spoke with two men who survived the Nazi genocide through British intervention. Henry Foner, 86, and Paul Alexander, 80, were among the thousands of Jewish children taken in by Britain from a continental Europe that was falling to German conquest as part of the 1930s "Kindertransport." Alexander said he told "His Royal Highness that this is a unique opportunity for me to express my thanks to the British people for opening their homes to me and to the other 10,000 children who came." Foner described the Prince as very warm and said he "gave us a good feeling." Foner said he thanked William, as a representative of the British people, for saving me at that time." He said talking to the Prince was "like talking to a friend I haven't seen in a long time." Wearing a black kippah, William laid a wreath at the Hall of Remembrance, where an eternal flame flickers and the names of extermination and concentration camps are engraved in the floor. "Terrifying," William said, viewing a display at the memorial's museum of shoes taken by the Nazis from Jews at the Majdanek death camp. "(I'm) trying to comprehend the scale." Tens of thousands of Jews and other victims were killed at the camp, near Lublin in what is now Poland. In the Yad Vashem guestbook, William wrote : "It has been a profoundly moving experience to visit Yad Vashem today. It is almost impossible to comprehend this appalling event in history. Every name, photograph and memory recorded here is a tragic reminder of the loss suffered by the Jewish people. The story of the Holocaust is one of darkness and despair, questioning humanity itself. We must never forget the Holocaust -- the murder of 6 million men, women and children, simply because they were Jewish. We all have a responsibility to remember and to teach future generations about the horrors of the past so that they can never reoccur. May the millions of Jewish people remembered by Yad Vashem never be forgotten. 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." • After the tour of Yad Vashe, William was greeted by the Netanyahus at the Prime Minister's Residence against the backdrop of British and Israeli flags. There, the Prince met relatives of the late Rachel Cohen, who was hidden from the Gestapo along with two of her five children by Princess Alice, the mother of William's grandfather, Britain's 97-year-old Prince Philip, in her palace in Greece. The Greek royal family -- Princess Alice was married to Prince Andrew of Greece -- had been acquainted with Cohen's late husband, Haimaki, a former member of Greece's parliament. Natanyahu said : "You must be very proud of your great-grandmother, who saved defenseless Jews," as he gifted William a replica Righteous Among the Nations Certificate for Princess Alice, who was granted the title in 1993. Princess Alice was recognized as one of the Righteous Among the Nations, gentiles who rescued Jews, by Yad Vashem in 1993. A devout Christian, she is buried on the slopes of Jerusalem's Mount of Olives. William will visit her tomb on Thursday. • At a meeting with President Reuven Rivlin, William, on a visit described by Britain as nonpolitical, said he hoped "peace in the area can be achieved. I had a very moving tour around Yad Vashem this morning, which really taught me quite a lot more than I thought I already knew about the true horrors of what happened to the Jews over the war," William told President Rivlin. Rivlin told William : "This land knows a lot about history, today you are writing a new page in history. Many kings and princes have visited Jerusalem over the years, and you come not just as a prince but as a pilgrim to the Holy Land.” Rivlin spoke with William of his experience growing up in Jerusalem : "Your Royal Highness, I was born as a British subject. I walked to school every day down King George Street, but also past King David Street. We were here 100 years even before the Balfour Declaration, a declaration which helped the people of Israel, the Jewish people, from all around the world bring to reality the idea and the belief that the Jewish people have to return to their homeland....We really appreciate the connection and the cooperation between our two states; the cooperation, the trade between us, and the friendship." • President Rivlin noted that William was to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on Wednesday, and asked that the prince convey a "message of peace. 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 one for more than 100 years." William thanked President Rivlin for his warm welcome : "It is my first visit to Israel, and 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." President Rivlin presented William a copy of an album of pictures taken between 1850 and 1865 of Prince Albert Edward -- who went on to be King Edward VII -- Prince William's great-great-great-grandfather, who visited the Holy Land in 1862. The album included an article by Rivlin's great-grandfather Yosef describing the prince's welcome. • • • PRINCE WILLIAM IN RAMALLAH. Jerusalem Post reported on Wednesday that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told Prince William that the Palestinians are serious in their wish to achieve peace with Israel. William and Abbas met in the Palestinian presidential compound in Ramallah in the first visit of its kind to the West Bank by a member of the British royal family. Abbas said : "We want to reach peace through negotiations," expressing hope that the Prince's next visit would be "after the Palestinians had achieved their independence." Abbas said he believed that the visit would strengthen friendly relations between the Palestinians and the British people. Abbas also pointed out that Britain had recently provided $45 million in aid to the United Nations Works and Relief Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA). • The Ramallah meeting was attended by a number of senior Palestinian officials, including Saeb Erekat and Hanan Ashrawi. Prince William, for his part, said that he was delighted to visit Ramallah and meet with Palestinians, according to a statement released by the PA president's office, which read : "I'm very glad our two countries work so closely together and have had success stories with education and relief work in the past, so, long may that continue....My sentiments are the same as yours in hoping that there is a lasting peace in the region." • On Tuesday, President Rivlin publicly asked the prince to bring Abbas "a message of peace" and tell him it is time to find a way to "build confidence" between Israel and the Palestinians. But, using one of the most dsiputed fact in all of the disputes between Israel and the Palestinians, during William's visit Abbas said : "The Palestinian side is committed to the peace process with the Israelis, so both states could live peacefully together within the borders of 1967." Abbas and the Palestinians behaved badly, as they always do -- using the non-political visit of Prince William as a platform to express their political positions that make peace impossible. Did Abbas really think William would rise to the bait?? • • • SADLY, ALL IS NOT ROSES IN ISRAEL, EVER. Israel Today reported on Wednesday that "Syrian civilians fleeing a fresh military offensive by their own government and its Russian allies have begun massing on the border of Israel's Golan Heights." Why? Because they say that being as close as possible to Israeli forces is the safest place to be, presumably because Syrian dictator Bashar Assad and Russia are wary of drawing Israel further into the country's bloody civil war. • The Assad regime has managed to regain control over most of Damascus and its suburbs, with the help of the Russians, and now, says Israel Today : "Assad wants to end the official rebellion (which is largely unrelated to the fight against ISIS and other jihadist groups) by retaking the last major rebel stronghold, the Daraa region of southwestern Syria. The Daraa region borders both Jordan and Israel. It is through Daraa that well over half a million Syrians have crossed the border to find refuge in Jordan. But, the Hashemite Kingdom has now said 'no more.' Jordan this week officially closed its border to additional Syrian refugees. It was the worst possible timing for the residents of Daraa, as regime and Russia warplanes began indiscriminately bombing everything in sight in preparation for a major military push into the region. Waseem Kiwan, a resident of Daraa city, told the AP that the Russians are bombing everything, including hospitals and UN facilities. As a result, many of these Syrians now feel that the 'safest place is the border with Israel because the regime and Russian airplanes cannot strike the area near the Israeli border,' said Kiwan. Another observer, Qalaat Al Mudiq, posted photos and videos of the fighting in Daraa, as well as the migration of Syrians toward Israel, to his Twitter profile @QalaatAlMudiq." Israel Today points out that : "This is a rather remarkable development, considering that most Syrians were raised believing the Israelis to be bloodthirsty and merciless enemies. Clearly, a great many people no longer believe such lies, as previously evidenced by the flood of wounded Syrians seeking medical treatment in Israel." • Yes, despite being officially at war, the Quneitra border crossing has seen Israel grant entry to thousands of Syrians seeking medical treatment. Will the Jewish state now open its gates to a much larger number of Syrian refugees? We don't have na answer yet, but we cna be sure that an open-border policy will never be put in place. • • • DEAR READERS, Prince William has made several stops on his trip, including the visit with Palestinian Authority President Abbas in Ramallah. What we have seen is a Prince William who has grown into his role as second in line to the British throne, who is obviously at ease with his role and who puts everyone he meets at ease with him. We cannot help but think of his mother, Princess Diana, and see her openness and warmth in William. But, his visit to Israel is also important for other reasons. It drives home the fact that Israel is a key player on the world stage, that it has become fully accepted as a leader in the Middle East, and that despite -- or perhaps because of -- Britain's struggle with Islamic radicalism and terrorism at home, it is now reaching out to Israel as a key to stability in the Middle East and a voice for peace in the world. But, peace and stability come at a price, as Israel's Prime Minister Netanyahu noted : "I am very proud the Jews are no longer defenseless. We have, thank God, a military to defend ourselves by ourselves."

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