On an unprecedented visit to the Palestinian territories on Wednesday, Britain’s Prince William visited a refugee camp, ate hummus and played soccer with Palestinian youth, and later, in East Jerusalem, told the Palestinians that they “have not been forgotten.”
After meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, William continued to the nearby Jalazoun refugee camp, where he tasted local dishes, as well as visited a school and a clinic. William, wearing sunglasses, sat watching a traditional Arab folk dance.
The prince — making the first ever royal visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories — then briefly joined in for some football with Palestinian children.
Wearing a light jacket, jeans and blue shirt, he took four shots against a young goalkeeper, who saved the first three but let in the fourth.
He was accompanied by Jibril Rajoub, the head of the Palestinian Football Federation. Rajoub is currently being investigated by soccer’s governing FIFA authority for alleged incitement ahead of a canceled friendly match between Argentina and Israel, which was to have been held in Jerusalem earlier this month.
Ramallah Mayor Mousa Hadeel said he wanted to help the prince learn about the history of the Palestinians.
“Our message is also one of love to Prince William and to the whole world and that this country needs peace so that this people can live,” he said.
Speaking at the British Consulate in Jerusalem on Wednesday evening after his West Bank visit, Prince William said he saw “an unforgettable display of Palestinian culture and hospitality” in Ramallah.
William said he was “struck by how many people in the region want a just and lasting peace.” He added these are the “same aspirations of young people everywhere in the world.”
“My message tonight is that you have not been forgotten,” the prince said.
He said he hoped his visit will strengthen the friendship between the Palestinian and British people. “The United Kingdom stands with you as we work together for a peaceful and prosperous future,” the prince said.
After the speech he spoke to groups of people, including some residents of Gaza, Palestinian politicians, and members of youth organizations.
Earlier on Wednesday, William began the day by strolling down Tel Aviv’s trendy Rothschild Boulevard and meeting young artists and entrepreneurs in Israel’s cultural and financial capital.
There, he met Netta Barzilai, winner of this year’s Eurovision song contest, and had a cold drink at one of the famous kiosks along the boulevard named after the late 19th-century British-Jewish banker and philanthropist who contributed greatly to the Jewish community in the Holy Land.
Thousands of onlookers gathered behind police barriers to catch a glimpse of the prince, with some shouting “we love William” toward the second in line to the throne.
The prince casually smiled and waved before attending a cultural event on the rooftop of a museum where he met young people engaged in youth activism, social impact and the environment. There, he lauded Israel for being way ahead of the world in its water recycling and conservation efforts.
“It’s going to be a really big issue for us in the future,” he said. “I think my generation, my children as well, there’s a legacy here … we need to tidy up a bit.”
Jonathan Weiss, a tour guide who accompanied the prince on Wednesday, said William was impressed by how youthful the city is and “what a great vibe” it has and said that the next “time he comes, he plans to bring his swimming trunks.”
Three decades of British rule between the two world wars helped establish some of the fault lines of today’s Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and Britain’s withdrawal in 1948 led to the eventual establishment of Israel and Jordan, where the prince kicked off the five-day Mideast tour on Sunday.
For the 36-year-old William, it marks a high-profile visit that could burnish his international credentials. He met Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin and paid an emotional visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial on Tuesday.
William wraps up his visit on Thursday with a tour of the Old City of Jerusalem and a visit to the tomb of his great-grandmother Princess Alice who rescued Jews during the Holocaust. In 1988 her remains were brought to Jerusalem.