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Queen Elizabeth’s Long, Complex Relationship with the British Jewish Community

 

Amy Spiro

Times of Israel, Sept. 8, 2022

“In 2000, the queen inaugurated Britain’s first permanent memorial to the Holocaust,”

Queen Elizabeth II, who sat on the throne for 70 years until her death on Thursday, enjoyed a long and warm relationship with the British Jewish community, from the start of her reign in 1952 through her final years.

In May 1952, just several months after the death of her father, King George VI, the queen met with the British chief rabbi and leaders of the British Jewish community. A month later, Jewish officials – as well as the Israeli ambassador – were present at her coronation at Westminster Abbey.

Marking her platinum jubilee in June, Marie van der Zyl, the president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, wrote that Queen Elizabeth has “been a rock for the nation” and has cultivated “a long history of involvement with the Jewish community.”

On the same occasion, British Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis praised the queen’s “70 glorious years of leadership” and lauded “her humility, her sense of duty, the service that she gives to the nation [and] her selflessness.”

Throughout her decades as the UK’s head of state, Queen Elizabeth cultivated amicable ties with Jewish communal figures as well as cordial relations with Israeli leaders. But though she paid official visits to dozens of countries throughout her tenure, she never visited the State of Israel.

In fact, no member of the royal family ever visited Israel in an official capacity until 2018, when Prince William arrived in the Jewish state on an unprecedented official visit, lifting the unofficial boycott.

Prince Philip had made a personal visit to Israel in 1994 to honor his mother, Princess Alice of Greece, who is buried on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. And Prince Charles visited Israel in 1995 and 2016 to attend the funerals of Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres. Those stays were not, however, official royal visits.

The decades-long refusal of the royal family to undertake an official visit to the State of Israel – while having no such hesitations over trips to authoritarian monarchies such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar – irked many Israeli politicians and members of the British Jewish community.

Jonathan Arkush, the former head of the Board of Deputies, told The Times of Israel in 2016 that local Jewry had been pushing hard for an official royal visit to Israel since it was “not about time. It’s past time for a royal visit.” … SOURCE

 

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