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Israelis Reflect on King Charles’ Ties to Jewish People Ahead of Possible Visit

British monarch's visit to Israel would be a historic first
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May 5, 2023
Prince Charles meets the President of Israel, Isaac Herzog at Highgrove House on November 22, 2021 in Tetbury, England. (Photo by Ben Birchall – WPA Pool/Getty Images)

As British citizens and royal enthusiasts around the world prepare to celebrate the coronation of King Charles III, Israelis are reflecting on the king’s connections to Israel and to the Jewish people. Some are hoping for an official visit after the coronation.

Rabbi David Rosen, the American Jewish Committee’s Jerusalem-based international director of interreligious affairs, told The Media Line of his admiration for Charles but said that he doubted a royal visit would happen in the current Israeli political climate.

“Prince William came, which is an indication that they are inching [forward], but I don’t suppose under the present government that that would be likely to happen,” he said.

Prince William visited Israel in 2018, as a few other members of the royal family did throughout the years, but no sitting British monarch has officially visited Israel.

Charles, then prince, came to Israel in 1995 for Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s funeral and in 2016 for President Shimon Peres’ funeral. He visited again in 2020 following his son William’s visit.

Queen Elizabeth II, who died last year, never visited Israel. But her mother-in-law, Princess Alice of Battenberg, is buried at the Russian Orthodox Church of Mary Magdalene on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.

During World War II, Alice saved a Jewish family in Greece from deportation to a death camp. She is recognized as one of the Righteous Among the Nations—non-Jews who risked their lives during the Holocaust to save Jews—by Yad Vashem, Israel’s official Holocaust memorial.

Charles, who is known to be amicable to those from all religions, broke with royal tradition by inviting non-Anglicans to participate in his coronation on Saturday.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog and his wife Michal will be among the 2,200 attendees, including 100 heads of state from around the world. British religious figures such as Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis will also attend.

As king, Charles is also the official head of the Church of England. Royals are required to follow Christian traditions, and the coronation has historically been a ceremony at which the regent accepts the royal title in the name of the church. Non-Anglicans were therefore barred from attending the ceremony.

Israelis who met Charles spoke fondly of his spirituality and his respect for those of all faiths.

“On the occasions I’ve met him, I’ve been very impressed with the conversation,” Rosen said. “I’ve been impressed with his spirituality, with the interest he takes in religions generally.”

He recalled Charles using the phrase “created in the divine fabric” to describe creation in the image of God.

“I’d never heard that phrase used in English before, but it seems to me to be an actual very good translation of one of the interpretations,” Rosen said.

He also recalled a speech that Charles once gave about religion driving people’s visions for a better world and a better society.

“There was a particular emphasis upon the fact that religions should lead an environmental awareness [campaign] precisely because religions affirm that our world was created and therefore it is a manifestation of the divine,” he said.

Rosen said that after Charles took over as king, he asked whether he could invite Charles to Israel. Charles responded that he would love to but that his advisers would probably tell him not to.

Former Ambassador of Israel to the UK Mark Regev similarly said that Israel may “have to have a little patience” as it waits for an official visit from Charles.

He told The Media Line that as constitutional monarchs, British royals make decisions based on the advice they receive. That explains why Elizabeth never visited, despite the fact that she would have probably liked to do so, he said.

Charles, too, probably wants to come, “but it’s fair to say it won’t be in the near future,” Regev said. He noted that Charles will probably visit some of the Commonwealth countries before coming to Israel.

British nationals in Israel are getting ready to commemorate the coronation. The British-owned Kumkum Teahouse in Jerusalem has planned a series of events to celebrate.

The teahouse prepared a special menu that includes similar treats to those eaten at coronation parties in England, such as scones, Pimm’s alcoholic fruit cup, and Buck’s Fizz cocktails.

On Thursday, dozens of people gathered at the teahouse for a “great British sing-along.” Although the coronation is set to begin on Saturday morning with live television coverage, it will be screened at the teahouse on Saturday night to allow observant Jews to watch.

Owner Elisheva Levy told The Media Line that about 90% of those registered are British nationals “who enjoy anything royal.”

At the official coronation ceremony, Charles will be anointed with oil consecrated by two clergymen at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.

“From ancient kings through to the present day, monarchs have been anointed with oil from this sacred place,” Archbishop Justin Welby said in a statement.

The Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III and the Anglican Archbishop in Jerusalem Hosam Naoum consecrated the oil.

Additional celebrations are planned throughout the region. For example, the English College, Dubai asked its students and staff to dress up on Friday to celebrate the coronation and the Ambassador International Academy, also in Dubai, invited its students and staff for a live viewing of the ceremony.

Representatives from nearly every country in the world are expected to attend the coronation, including leaders from across the Middle East. Iran was one of the very few countries not to be invited.

To read more articles from The Media Line, click here.

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