Prince William with Muslim officials at al-Haram al-Sharif in Jerusalem with the Dome of the Rock behind them. (WAFA Images)
JERUSALEM, June 28, 2018 (WAFA) – Prince William, also known by his official title as Duke of Cambridge, concluded on Thursday a five-day trip to the Middle East that took him to Jordan, Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.
On the last leg of his tour, the first official visit by a member of the British royal family since the end of the British Mandate in Palestine on May 15, 1948, William toured Muslim, Christian and Jewish holy sites in the Israeli-occupied city of Jerusalem.
After looking at Jerusalem from atop the Mount of Olives, which gives a panoramic view of the Old City adorned by the spectacular Muslim mosque, the golden Dome of the Rock, sitting on an elevation in the al-Haram al-Sharif or the Noble Sanctuary compound, Prince William went to visit his great grandmother’s tomb at a nearby church on the Mount of Olives.
From there he went down the mountain heading toward the Old City, where he went inside the Muslim holy compound to see its holy sites, including the Dome of the Rock, from a close distance and from inside. He was accompanied by officials from the Muslim Waqf, who briefed him on the history of this historic site.
Prince William then toured Christianity’s holiest site, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the tomb location of Jesus Christ, where he was also given a briefing of the history of this church from its leaders.
The royal prince also visited the Western Wall, the Jewish holy site, where he was also briefed on its history.
The prince’s tour of Jerusalem and its holy and historic sites came after visiting Ramallah on Wednesday and meeting with President Mahmoud Abbas, and then with a cross-section of the Palestinian society, mainly young people, at Ramallah City Hall and a nearby school where he played football with children.
He also visited a local refugee camp and met with representatives of the refugees and members of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, UNRWA, to which the United Kingdom said on Monday that it will be immediately releasing £38.5 million to the agency to help alleviate some of its financial pressures.
William returned to Jerusalem on Wednesday evening, after a busy half-day visit in Ramallah, to attend a reception at the British Consulate General in East Jerusalem.
At the reception, Prince William spoke to his Palestinian guests that he was honored to meet President Abbas and have lunch with him.
“During the course of the day, I have met Palestinians from a range of backgrounds and from many different places, including from Gaza. I saw at Jalazon (refugee camp) the tremendous hardships faced by the refugees, and I can only imagine the difficulties of life lived under these conditions, the ed resources and the lack of opportunity,” he said.
Even though Kensington Palace had said from the beginning that the visit by the Duke of Cambridge was “non-political,” Prince William could not escape the reality of the hot politics of the region.
“As I said when I was in Tel Aviv yesterday, 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. I know I share a desire with all of you, and with your neighbors, for a just and lasting peace,” he said.
“The story of the Palestinian people is so often told only through the lens of difficulty and conflict – but there is another story which I was privileged to witness today. This afternoon in Ramallah I saw an unforgettable display of Palestinian culture and hospitality. The Dabka, the singing, and the dancing were by turns beautiful, moving and joyful.
“The cuisine was utterly delicious. All these are aspects of a long, varied and vibrant culture that finds expression in so many ways, not just your music but also your poetry and literature. Your rich traditions of scholarship live on in the importance you attach to education. I know how much we in the United Kingdom benefit from the many Chevening scholars and other bright young Palestinians who study in Britain. And I was delighted to know what value you too place on these exchanges.
“I am also struck by how many people in the region want a just and lasting peace. This is only too evident among the young people I have met, who long for a new chapter to be written in the history of this region – a chapter which will secure them a prosperous future and will ensure that their enormous talents can flourish. These are not extravagant aspirations, but the same aspirations of young people everywhere in the world.
“My message tonight is that you have not been forgotten. It has been a very powerful experience to meet you and other Palestinians living in the West Bank, and to hear your stories. I hope that through my being here and understanding the challenges you face, the links of friendship and mutual respect between the Palestinian and British people will grow stronger.
“The United Kingdom stands with you, as we work together for a peaceful and prosperous future.”