‘May Prince Philip’s memory be a blessing’ – Israel expresses condolences

Israeli officials expressed their condolences after the British Royal Family announced the death of Queen Elizabeth’s husband Prince Philip, formally known as the Duke of Edinburgh, on Friday.”My deepest condolences and heartfelt sympathy to HM Queen Elizabeth II, HRH The Prince of Wales, the Royal Family and the people of the United Kingdom” tweeted Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin, adding, “May his memory be a blessing.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also expressed his “Condolences to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles, the Royal Family and the people of the United Kingdom on the passing of the Duke of Edinburgh. Prince Philip was the consummate public servant and will be much missed in Israel and across the world.”

Both opposition leader and Yesh Atid Paty head Yair Lapid and Labor head Merav Michaeli were among the first of Israel’s major political figures to express support for the Royal Family, with Michaeli adding that, “Philip served the people of the United Kingdom with honour and devotion.”New Hope head Gideon Sa’ar tweeted  that, ” Prince Philip was a man of determination, and will be remembered for his lifetime of service to the people of the UK.”

A Greek prince, Philip married the queen in 1947, and had been by her side throughout her 69-year reign.”His Royal Highness passed away peacefully this morning at Windsor Castle. Further announcements will be made in due course. The Royal Family join with people around the world in mourning his loss,” the statement by the Royal Family read.

Philip spent four weeks in hospital earlier this year for treatment for an infection to have a heart procedure, but returned to Windsor in early March. He was admitted to the King Edward VII’s Hospital on Feb. 16 after he felt unwell, to receive treatment for an unspecified, but not COVID-19-related, infection.

Philip’s four sisters each married German nobles, at least three of whom became Nazis. But Philip, educated in Britain, joined the allied war effort. As an adult, he showed little patience for Nazi collaborators; he was instrumental in making a pariah of his wife’s uncle Edward, who after abdicating the throne dallied with Nazi Germany.
Philip over the years spoke multiple times at Jewish and pro-Israel events.
The prince, who had a passion for environmental preservation, spoke multiple times at Jewish National Fund events and lent his royal sponsorship to other Jewish events. He came under attack in the 1960s for speaking to pro-Israel groups, and, famously impervious to criticism, ignored the attacks.

Philip’s support for Jewish and pro-Israel causes ran deep. His mother, Princess Alice of Greece, sheltered a Jewish family during the Holocaust and is recognized as one of fewer than 30,000 “righteous among the nations” by Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust museum.

This was noted in Chairman of the Jewish Agency Isaac Herzog’s condolence statement, when he tweeted that the “Duke of Edinburgh was part of a generation who fought the Nazis in WW2. His  mother was a Righteous Among the Nations. May his memory be a blessing.”
Yamina head Naftali Bennett tweeted alongside his condolences that, “As the son of a Righteous Among the Nations, and as one dedicated to the British people, he [Prince Philip] will be remembered with affection.”While she passed away in Buckingham Palace in 1963, the princess’s remains were transferred in 1988 from Windsor Castle to the Church of Mary Magdalene at the Russian Orthodox convent on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.Her tomb was visited in 2018 by her great-grandson Prince William, the Duke’s grandson in June 2018, 70 years after Britain quit its mandate in Palestine. His arrival marked the first state visit to Israel by a member of the British royal family.Two years later in January 2020, his father, Prince Charles arrived in Israel his first extended visit to attend the Fifth World Holocaust Forum marking 75 years since the Red Army’s liberation of Auschwitz. (Charles briefly came to Israel in 1995 for the funeral of Yitzhak Rabin, and again in 2016 for the funeral of Shimon Peres).

In 1994, Philip was the first British royal to visit Israel, when he accepted Yad Vashem’s recognition of his mother and visited her burial site in Jerusalem. 
At Yad Vashem, Philip planted a maple tree in memory of his mother, who was married to Prince Andrew of Greece and helped shelter three members of the family of a late Greek-Jewish politician in her palace in Athens. The Gestapo was suspicious of Alice, even questioning her, but the princess, who was deaf, pretended not to understand their questions. Alice later became a nun.
“The Holocaust was the most horrific event in all Jewish history, and it will remain in the memory of all future generations,” Philip said at the time. “It is, therefore, a very generous gesture that also remembered here are the many millions of non-Jews, like my mother, who shared in your pain and anguish and did what they could in small ways to alleviate the horror.”
The 1994 visit broke with what was then an unofficial but nonetheless binding ban on royals traveling to Israel, which had been enforced following violence by Zionist fighters against British targets in the years that predated the establishment of the State of Israel in what had been before 1948 the British Mandate over Palestine.
For all its trappings, Philip’s 1994 visit was in a personal capacity. The Royal House ended its policy on official visits to Israel in 2018, after Prince William’s visit to Jerusalem, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan.
Philip’s retirement from public life in 2017 triggered an outpouring of plaudits for a life well-lived from Jewish groups and leaders.
Those groups expressed grief upon his death Friday. Philip’s life “was spent in public service, from his active duty in the Navy during World War II to the tens of thousands of engagements which he carried out over six and a half decades of royal duties,” the president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Marie van der Zyl, wrote in a statement.

Reuters and Herb Keinon contributed to this report.

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