Will King Charles III – defender of ‘all faiths’ – pay an official visit to Israel as the British monarch?
Charles visited Israel three times as a prince; He was invited again by Israeli President Herzog who represents the Jewish State in the coronation ceremony
The coronation of King Charles III on Saturday is expected to draw the attention of millions of people around the world, including in Israel. In his previous role as prince, Charles paid three visits to the Jewish state, unlike his late mother, Queen Elizabeth II, who had never set foot in Israel, despite visiting some 120 other countries throughout her long reign.
King Charles attended the funeral of former Israeli Prime Minister Itzhak Rabin in 1995 and former President Shimon Peres in 2016. In 2020, he made an official visit to Israel to participate in the World Holocaust Forum that marked 75 years to the liberation of Auschwitz.
Charles, therefore, was always perceived as an important link between the British royal family and the State of Israel, notwithstanding the complicated relationship. Moreover, within the United Kingdom, Charles has also maintained a meaningful alliance with the British Jewish population.
As Britain's new king, Charles has vowed to become the defender of “all faiths,” not only of the Anglican Church. At his request, the crowning ceremony will include the active participation of other religions for the first time.
When Queen Elizabeth was crowned in 1953, more than 80% of the British citizens were Christian. A recent census conducted by the UK Office for National Statistics found that today, less than half of the people in England and Wales identify as Christian.
Saturday’s coronation will be led by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, spiritual leader of the Church of England. It will also involve Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh leaders.
Even though the ceremony will take place during the Jewish Shabbat, some rabbis will attend. The UK’s Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, is expected to deliver a special prayer at the service, but will do so without using a microphone in order not to violate the Sabbath.
The rabbi will also walk to Westminster Abbey by foot, along with Israeli President Isaac Herzog and his wife, to properly observe the Shabbat.
Herzog also represented Israel at the Queen’s funeral last year. During his stay in London, he told King Charles that the Jewish state would be delighted to host him.
Over the years, several Israeli presidents have extended repeat invitations to the British Monarch, then-Queen Elizabeth, but those had been quietly rejected. According to UK law, every official visit of the royal family must receive the approval of the British government.
For many years, Israelis believed the reason behind the Queen’s rejection was Britain’s fear of Arab boycotts. The official approach of the United Kingdom has been that visits cannot take place as long as the Arab-Israeli conflict stands. Yet, the Queen had still refused invitations, even after several Arab countries made peace with Israel via the historic Abraham Accords peace agreements in 2020.
Israelis hope that Queen Elizabeth’s successor, King Charles, will begin a new tradition.
Tal Heinrich is a senior correspondent for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS. She is currently based in New York City. Tal also provides reports and analysis for Israeli Hebrew media Channel 14 News.