JERUSALEM (AFP) - Britain's Prince William paid a visit to Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial on Tuesday (June 26), saying the "true horrors" of the Holocaust must not be forgotten.
On the first official trip by a British royal to both Israel and the Palestinian territories, the prince wore a black Jewish skullcap as he rekindled the eternal flame and laid a wreath at the memorial as a youth choir sang.
The 36-year-old, who is the second in line to the British throne, also toured the museum at the site perched on a forested hillside in west Jerusalem as part of a Middle East tour that began Sunday in Jordan.
His visit comes at a particularly sensitive time after US President Donald Trump recognised Jerusalem as capital of Israel, outraging Palestinians and sparking deadly clashes on the border with Gaza.
Britain governed the region under a League of Nations mandate for almost three decades until Israel's independence 70 years ago, and is still blamed by both sides for sowing the seeds of the ongoing conflict.
William met with two Holocaust survivors, Paul Alexander and Henry Foner, who as children had escaped from Nazi Germany to Britain as part of the "Kindertransport" programme.
"We must never forget the Holocaust," the prince wrote in the visitors' book in neat italic script.
"We all have a responsibility to remember and to teach future generations about the horrors of the past so that they can never reoccur."
While in Jerusalem, William will also visit the grave of his great grandmother, Princess Alice, who was honoured as among the "Righteous among the Nations" by Yad Vashem in 1993 for sheltering Jews in Greece from the Nazis during World War II.
"I am honoured that my own great-grandmother is one of these Righteous among the Nations," he wrote in the book. He later met Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara and then called on President Reuven Rivlin, where he spoke of the deep impression his visit to the Holocaust memorial had made upon him.
"I had a very moving tour round Yad Vashem this morning which really taught me quite a lot more than I thought I already knew about the true horrors of what happened to the Jews in the war," he told Rivlin in front of journalists.
William arrived in Israel from Jordan on Monday evening without his wife Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, who gave birth to their third child two months ago. He is staying in Jerusalem at the King David Hotel, former headquarters of the British administration during the mandate in Palestine before the creation of the State of Israel in 1948.
On Wednesday he is scheduled to meet Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah, before meeting Palestinian refugees and young people.
"I know that you are going to be meeting president Abbas," Rivlin told him.
"I'd like to send him a message of peace and tell him that we have to find a way together to build confidence as a way to build understanding."
William responded that he looked forward to "understanding lots about the region and about hoping that peace in the region can be achieved."
On Thursday, he is to complete his stay by visiting historical and religious sites in Jerusalem.
'Not a political visit'
"We know this is not a time when we can celebrate progress in the Middle East peace progress, but we believe that engagement is just as important in challenging times as it is in good times," Philip Hall, Britain's consul general in Jerusalem, told journalists on Monday.
"We know some of the politics are difficult, but this is not a political visit." Israel defines Jerusalem as its "eternal and indivisible" capital, while the Palestinians see east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.
Trump's decision in December to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital sparked Arab outrage, and the May inauguration of the US embassy in the city coincided with bloody border protests in the Gaza Strip.
Some right-wing Israeli politicians have criticised the fact that William's visit to east Jerusalem is being organised by the British Consulate-General, which deals with the Palestinians. But as the prince arrived at Rivlin's official residence in a limousine flying the royal standard, residents of apartment buildings opposite crowded their balconies, cheering and applauding enthusiastically.
Before broaching the subject of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict Rivlin spoke at length about his love of football.
"I know you are a fan of Aston Villa," he told his guest, declaring himself a Liverpool supporter and asking if Israel could borrow England captain Harry Kane.
"Kane is a real great striker," Rivlin said.
Israel seized the West Bank and east Jerusalem from Jordan in the 1967 Six-Day War. Official visits by British royals are organised at the request of the UK government.
Other members of William's family - including his father Prince Charles - have made unofficial visits to Israel and east Jerusalem in the past.