The eyes of the world will be firmly fixed on London today. People ask me what I feel about the wedding. The answer is pride − pride that our royal family inspires such loyalty from inside Britain and such interest from outside; pride that we have found a way to preserve the best of our traditions at the same time as building a modern economy and a tolerant and diverse society; pride that we can put on such a show.
Today’s wedding has captured people’s imagination well beyond Britain’s borders. I have been struck by the level of interest in Israel − which stretches well beyond the Anglo community.
The daily coverage in the Israeli media, the numerous conversations I’ve had with people about our monarchy, and the excitement around our party at the Yitzhak Rabin Center today are testament to the warmth of the relationship between the U.K. and Israel.
When I arrived here just over six months ago, it quickly became obvious to me that as Britain’s ambassador to Israel, and in particular, Britain’s first Jewish ambassador to Israel, I carried with me some heavy historical baggage.
Some of it is very positive. As I’ve traversed the country, I’ve come across endless number of streets named after British monarchs, generals and politicians. Israel’s legal system is based on Britain’s. Britain’s obsession with soccer has become Israel’s obsession too, even though we haven’t yet managed to get you hooked on cricket.
Royal Wedding preparations
Some of that baggage is less positive. I have been called to account for the policies not just of the current British government, but of its predecessors stretching back at least a century. Israel is littered with buildings − from the Atlit prison to the King David Hotel − that serve as a stark reminder of the more difficult chapters in our shared histories. And even today there remain points of difference between us, such as over the wisdom of building more homes in settlements.
But for all the well-publicized differences, the countries remain close. Every day I spend in Israel brings me home to the fact that there is in Israel more affection for Britain than I had ever realized, more respect, and more connection.
Millions of Israelis have family ties to Britain, have visited Britain, have worked or studied there. Huge numbers of British people visit Israel every year, and this number continues to increase. Two-way trade between our countries is at 3 billion pounds a year, and growing fast.
Our scientists are working closely together, and there is a huge appetite for more cooperation still. Israeli soccer players and managers are a fixture in the English Premier League, with varying degrees of success.
This makes me believe all the more in my mission to cement the links between our countries, focusing on the many areas where we can do amazing things together from science and trade to the arts and high tech. And there is much more we can achieve, to the benefit of both countries.
There is a closeness and warmth between the countries that I find extraordinary, and − as the person tasked with being the guardian of the relationship for Britain − deeply humbling.
The writer is Britain’s ambassador to Israel.
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