(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)
Prince William visited Jerusalem’s Western Wall and the Temple Mount on Thursday morning, on the final day of his three-day trip to Israel and the West Bank.
William was joined at the West Wall by the site’s rabbi, Shmuel Rabinovitch. After spending several moments alone beside the stones, the prince signed the Wall’s guestbook.
He was accompanied by the site’s rabbi and security guards as he approached the wall. Donning a black skullcap, he placed his right hand on the ancient stones and then, following tradition, slipped a note inside its cracks.
He signed the guestbook with the following passage: “May the God of peace bless this region and all the world with peace.”
“Today we experienced a moment of history which will live long in the memory of Jews around the world,” said the Chief Rabbi of Britain Ephraim Mirvis, who accompanied the prince in his visit. “The Western Wall stands at the epicenter of our faith. To see the future monarch come to pay his respects was a remarkable gesture of friendship and a sign of the duke’s regard for the sanctity of Jerusalem.”
On the Temple Mount, the prince was allowed to enter the Dome of the Rock, which is generally off limits for non-Muslims.
Crowds of onlookers followed his every move as the prince made his way to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre shortly after departing from the Western Wall.
Earlier the prince visited the grave of his great-grandmother Princess Alice of Battenberg on the Mount of Olives. Princess Alice saved a Jewish family during the Holocaust, and was interred in the cemetery in the late 1980s.
The prince stood solemnly by his great-grandmother’s grave, accompanied by a Russian Orthodox clergyman. He was then given several gifts by the clergy, including a bouquet of flowers and a cross. With the homage, William followed in the footsteps of his father Charles, the Prince of Wales, and grandfather Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, who had also visited Princess Alice’s grave.
The Duke of Cambridge left Israel in the afternoon. His stay was the first-ever official visit by a member of the royal family since the British Mandate ended and the State of Israel was founded in 1948.
The trip took place under a minor cloud of controversy, as Kensington Palace’s official itinerary states that the prince’s visit to Jerusalem’s Old City would take place in the “Occupied Palestinian Territories.”
According to a Hadashot TV news report on Wednesday, William also reportedly refused a request for a meeting in the capital with Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat.
Barkat requested a meeting in the city with the royal visitor, who has been staying at Jerusalem’s King David Hotel. However, British Embassy officials reportedly told Barkat the prince would be pleased to meet the mayor at a reception held Tuesday at the British ambassador’s residence in Ramat Gan, but that the prince would not meet with him in Jerusalem.
The prince met at length in Jerusalem on Tuesday with both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin. Apparently a meeting by the prince with the mayor in Jerusalem, however, would have implied an unacceptable degree of British recognition of Israeli rights in the city.
Barkat refused the offer and stayed away from Tuesday night’s reception.
On Wednesday, in Ramallah, Prince William told Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas he was “glad our two countries work so closely together.”
Israel has opposed any attempts by the Palestinians to gain recognition as a state before a permanent peace deal is signed. Still, the Foreign Ministry chose not to respond to William’s comment.
On Tuesday and Wednesday William toured the Tel Aviv beach, met with Israeli youth and took a stroll down the city’s famed Rothschild Boulevard with Eurovision winner Netta Barzilai.
William told guests at Tuesday’s Ramat Gan reception that Israel is a vibrant country that “thrives on innovation, diversity, talent and excellence,” and said ties were at an all-time high.
He also promised Britain’s support in the quest for peace between Israel and its neighbors.
“I know I share a desire with all of you, and with your neighbors, for a just and lasting peace. The United Kingdom stands with you, as we work together for a peaceful and prosperous future,” he said.
William also visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem on Tuesday and met there with Holocaust survivors.
Agencies contributed to this report.
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