Prince William Wears 'Yarmulke' as he Visits Wailing Wall

Published June 28th, 2018 - 10:59 GMT
Britain's Prince William touches the Western Wall, the holiest site where Jews can pray, in Jerusalem's Old City today. (AFP/ File)
Britain's Prince William touches the Western Wall, the holiest site where Jews can pray, in Jerusalem's Old City today. (AFP/ File)

Prince William prayed at the most sacred site accessible to Jews today when he visited the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City.

With a yarmulke - also known as a kippah or skull cap - on his head, the Duke of Cambridge placed a written prayer on a folded piece of paper into one of the cracks in the wall, held his right hand against the ancient stones and spent around a minute in quiet contemplation with his eyes shut.

William was escorted around the holy site by Britain's Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis and the rabbi of the Western Wall, Shmuel Rabinovitch, on the last day of his historic visit to the Middle East.

A large crowd of Jewish worshippers watched him as he prayed. One man shouted out: 'We love you' as the prince prayed.

The Western Wall is the most sacred site accessible to Jews as it is the only remaining part of the Temple, held to be uniquely holy in Judaism.

The site of the former temple on Temple Mount now houses the Dome of the Rock mosque, the cause of violent disputes. 

But for religious reasons Jews are forbidden to go there in case they tread on the site of the Holy of Holies, thought to be located under the Dome of the Rock.

King Herod built the Western Wall in 20 BC during an expansion of the Second Temple. When the Romans destroyed the temple in 70 AD the retaining wall survived.

For hundreds of years, Jews came to pray in the small area of the wall that could be seen, posting folded pieces of paper containing prayers in cracks in the ancient stones.

It became known by Europeans as the Wailing Wall, a translation of the Arabic el-Mabka, which means place of weeping.

That description came from the Jewish practice of mourning the destruction of the Temple and praying for its rebuilding at the site of the Western Wall.

In 1967, following the Six Day War, Israelis dug below the ground of the wall, exposing two more levels of the wall.

They also cleared the area around the wall, which is just over 50 yards long and 60ft high, to create the Western Wall Plaza for visitors to see it more easily. The prayer area is divided into men's and women's sections.

The Chief Rabbi said after the visit: 'Today we experienced a moment of history which will live long in the memory of Jews around the world.

'The Western Wall stands at the epicentre of our faith. To see the future Monarch come to pay his respects was a remarkable gesture of friendship and a sign of the Duke's regard for the sanctity of Jerusalem.'

William has also visited Temple Mount, one of the world's most contested religious sites.

The site, considered exceptionally holy to both Jews and Muslims, sits in the shadow of the stunning Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.

The Duke was shown around the area by scholar Dr Mustafa Abu Sway, after making a pilgrimage to the Mary Magdalene church where his great-grandmother Princess Alice is buried.

The Professor of philosophy and Islamic studies at the city's Al-Quds University told the Duke about the historical significance of the site and why it is so revered by both religions.

The Temple Mount - known in Hebrew as Har Habayit and Haram al-Sharif or Noble Sanctuary in Islam - has been the site of religious tension for hundreds of years.

The plot sits on elevated plaza above the Western Wall in Jerusalem that was the site of both of Judaism's ancient temples.

The area is also home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque and considered the third holiest in Islam, after Mecca and Medina.

Jewish connection to the site stems from the belief that it contains the 'Foundation Stone' where God created earth according to ancient scripture.

It is considered by Jews the place where God's presence exists.

It is believed to be the site of many important events detailed in the Bible, including the Binding of Isaac, Jacob's dream, and the prayer of Isaac and Rebekah.

The Duke, wearing a beige summer suit, tie and blue shirt, arrived shortly after 9am and spent nearly an hour walking round the site.

William, 36, took off his shoes as required by religious tradition, before entering the mosque.

He appeared to listen intently to the professor and frequently looked around the magnificent building that has stood for hundreds of years.

The Duke was taken down to the mosque's crypt where the foundations were laid. The mount is also the site of both ancient Jewish temples.

The first was built by King Solomon but destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BCE.

The second was built in the sixth century BCE and stood for nearly 600 years before it was destroyed and the Jewish people exiled in 70 CE by the Roman Empire.

Muslims believe it was the site of the Prophet Muhammad's ascent to heaven in the seventh century.

Although the Jewish people are permitted to visit the site, many avoid the area for fear of treading on sacred ground.

William left the mosque before posing for pictures and making his way to the Western Wall which is the last standing retaining wall of the Temple Mount and the closest place to the Mount where Jews are traditionally permitted to pray.

Also this morning, William enjoyed a breathtaking view of the Old City of Jerusalem from the iconic Mount of Olives. 

Dressed in a cool beige linen suit, tie and sunglasses, the second in line to the throne spent 20 minutes standing on a viewing point looking out over the sun-bathed city, marvelling at the view.

Landmarks such as the Western Wall, Temple Mount and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre were pointed out with the help of Tareq, a guide from the British Embassy.

He said earlier that he would talk the prince through the major Biblical landmarks of the area and of events that have taken place on the Mount of Olives itself, including the last week of Jesus' life.

The Mount of Olives is a mountain ridge east of Jerusalem's Old City with stunning views of many of its ancient landmarks.

Named after the olive groves that once lined its slopes, it was also the location of many Biblical events. In the Old Testament, King David fled over the Mount of Olives to escape when his son Absalom rebelled.

And after King Solomon turned away from God he built pagan temples there for the gods of his foreign wives.

In the New Testament, Jesus often walked over the Mount of Olives from the Temple to Bethany or went there to pray and rest. He also went down over the Mount on his triumphal entry to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.

He foretold his second coming as he addressed his disciples on the Mount and prayed there with them the night before he was arrested. He also ascended to to Heaven from the mountain, according to Acts 1:1 1-12.

The Mount has also been used as a Jewish cemetery for over 3,000 years and holds approximately 150,000 graves. 

Also today, the Duke paid his respects at the tomb of his great-grandmother Princess Alice as his historic tour of the Middle East comes to an end.

William visited her final resting place at the Church of St Mary Magdalene in Jerusalem, following in the footsteps of Alice's son the Duke of Edinburgh and grandson the Prince of Wales, who have both visited the site.

Alice, who was married to Prince Andrew of Greece, is remembered for saving the life of a Jewish family in Greece during the Holocaust by sheltering them in her home from the Nazis.

Yesterday, the Duke was thanked for the bravery of his great-grandmother by the descendants of Rachel Cohen, who was harboured, along with some of her children, in the princess's home.

A nun for many years, Alice died in 1969 and was first laid to rest at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle.

But it was her wish to be interned at the Russian orthodox church on the Mount of Olives, near her aunt Elizabeth, the Grand Duchess of Russia, and her remains were moved in 1988.

William has been touring Jordan, Jerusalem and the Occupied Palestinian Territories since Sunday - a trip that has seen him meet Israel's prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, president Reuven Rivlin and Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas.

During the final speech of his tour, the Duke said yesterday the Palestinians 'have not been forgotten'.

Speaking at the end of a day where he experienced the extremes of life on the West Bank - from a refugee camp to a proud display of cultural identity - he said he shared the desire of Palestinians and Israelis for a 'just and lasting peace'.

This article has been adapted from its original source.

© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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