Hailing best ever ties, Prince William praises innovative Israel, urges peace
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Royal visitor impressed by country's 'essential vibrancy'

Hailing best ever ties, Prince William praises innovative Israel, urges peace

Future king highlights Tel Aviv's 'flair and diversity,' commits himself to uphold the memory of the Holocaust

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Britain's Prince William poses for a group photo with Jewish and Arab children at the Neve Golan Stadium in the Israeli Mediterranean coastal city of Jaffa on June 26, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / POOL / Heidi Levine)
Britain's Prince William poses for a group photo with Jewish and Arab children at the Neve Golan Stadium in the Israeli Mediterranean coastal city of Jaffa on June 26, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / POOL / Heidi Levine)

Britain’s Prince William on Tuesday evening hailed Israel as a vibrant country that “thrive[s] on innovation, diversity, talent, and excellence,” and said ties were at an all-time high.

He promised Britain’s support in the quest for peace between Israel and its neighbors.

And at the only public speech during his official visit to Israel this week — the first ever by a member of the royal family — William also pledged to uphold the memory of the Holocaust.

“Israel’s remarkable story is partly one of remembering this terrible past but, also, looking forward to a much more hopeful future. There is – and I’ve seen it already – an essential vibrancy to this country,” the prince said, speaking at a reception for about 350 Israelis at the residence of UK Ambassador to Israel David Quarrey in the Tel Aviv suburb of Ramat Gan.

“From the early stories of the kibbutzim; to the revival of Hebrew as a living, modern language; to the hi-tech economies that we see around us here in Tel Aviv — the modern story of Israel is one of inventing, creating, innovating, and striding confidently into its future.”

Still, he noted, “This 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,” he said. “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.”

Earlier on Tuesday, Prince William — the second-in-line for the throne — participated in a soccer match of Jewish and Arab youth and a beach volleyball game at the Tel Aviv beach.

Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, seen at Frischman beach in Tel Aviv, on June 26, 2018. (Niv Aharonson/POOL)

“I got a flavor today of the unique character of Tel Aviv, its flair and diversity – and its beach. A beautiful city,” he said at the reception, which was attended by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, several cabinet ministers, senior opposition MKs, and other dignitaries and celebrities.

On Wednesday morning, the prince is set to meet more young Israelis involved in environment, mental health, culture, and charity.

“These young people are painting a bright future for Israel, bringing their own energy and creativity to the Start-Up Nation,” he said. “These young people are also a reminder of how much we have in common – two open societies which thrive on innovation, diversity, talent, and excellence.”

Britain’s Prince William speaking during a reception at the British ambassador’s residence in Ramat Gan, June 26, 2018 (Ben Kelmer)

Ties between the UK and Israel “have never been stronger,” the future king went on, citing record levels of trade and investment, cooperation in science and technology, and robust bilateral security ties.

Earlier on Tuesday, Prince William visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, where he met with two Israeli Holocaust survivors who had fled from Europe to Britain on the Kindertransport 80 years ago.

“As I wrote in my message at Yad Vashem, we must never forget what was perpetrated against the Jewish people in the Holocaust,” he said. “I am 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.”

Prince William takes part in a wreath laying ceremony at the Hall of Remembrance at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial museum in Jerusalem on June 26, 2018. (Ben Kelmer)

On Thursday, he is scheduled to visit the grave of his great-grandmother, Princess Alice, who is considered by Yad Vashem a “Righteous Among the Nations” for saving Jews during the Holocaust.

“Her story is a matter of great pride for my whole family — and the gift I received today from you, Prime Minister, of a copy of the medal presented in her honor by Israel is something my family will treasure – thank you,” Prince William said.

Earlier on Tuesday, Netanyahu and his wife Sara hosted the prince at their official residence on Balfour Street, where they met with descendants of Haimaki and Rachel Cohen, who were saved during the Holocaust by Princess Alice.

Britain’s Prince William meets descendants of the Cohen family, who his great-grandmother Princess Alice of Battenberg rescued in Greece during the Holocaust, at the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem on June 26, 2018, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara look on. (Haim Zach/GPO)

“Israel’s remarkable story is partly one of remembering this terrible past but, also, looking forward to a much more hopeful future. There is — and I’ve seen it already — an essential vibrancy to this country,” the duke said.

Britain’s Prince William wears special glasses during a technology demonstration with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Sara Netanyahu and Israeli entrepreneur Aviram Ziv (L) at the British ambassador’s residence in the Israeli town of Ramat Gan, east of Tel Aviv, on June 26, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / POOL / Sebastian Scheiner)

Before the royal visitor’s speech, the Netanyahus and the prince viewed an exhibit of the technological developments of four Israeli companies. The prime minister did not deliver a speech at the reception, as often members of the royal family are the only speakers at events given in their honor by the British government.

Britain’s Prince William stands alongside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his wife Sara Netanyahu and UK Ambassador to Israel David Quarrey (R) during a reception at the British ambassador’s residence in the Israeli town of Ramat Gan, east of Tel Aviv, on June 26, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / POOL / Sebastian Scheiner)

The prince began his address in Hebrew — Erev Tov, LeKulam (Good evening everybody) — and smiled broadly and endearingly when applauded. He ended it, to more applause, with Toda raba (thank you very much).

He then engaged in series of private conversations with about a dozen Israelis from all walks of life, including singers Shiri Maimon and Ivri Lider, opposition politicians Tzipi Livni and Isaac Herzog, Ben-Gurion University President Rivka Carmi, model Bar Refaeli, Channel 10 news anchorwoman Tamar Ish Shalom, and Saul Singer, the co-author of a successful book about how Israel became known as the “Start-up Nation.”

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