Home Secretary Sajid Javid visited Jerusalem’s Western Wall yesterday, the first by a British Government Minister in 19 years. It was part of a three-day visit to Israel and the West Bank, where he met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other senior Israeli and Palestinian political leaders.
After placing a note between the stones of the ancient wall, Mr Javid said it was a “truly powerful and moving moment placing a note of reflection in the Western Wall – the focus of Jewish worship for generations”. He was accompanied to the holy site by the director of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation.
The Home Secretary also visited the Dome of the Rock and said that he was “honoured to be the first British Cabinet Minister to say a prayer at Al Aqsa Mosque”. Meeting with Christian leaders at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Mr Javid said that “the Holy Land’s Christian community are an ancient part of a beautiful tapestry”.
He wrote that he had a “fascinating morning in Jerusalem’s Old City visiting some of the holiest sites in the world. An absolutely breathtaking melting-pot of history, culture & religion”. Mr Javid underlined: “Freedom of religion and belief is a non-negotiable right for all peoples, and the UK Government is committed to tackling anti-Muslim hatred, antisemitism, the persecution of Christians and any other impediments to this right both in the UK and around the world”.
Recalling that his father believed deeply in Jewish-Muslim coexistence, Mr Javid said: “We love Jewish heritage very much and appreciate it”.
CFI Parliamentary Chairman (Commons) Rt. Hon. Stephen Crabb MP welcomed the “hugely significant” visit by the Home Secretary and said he fully endorsed Mr Javid’s “message of peace, unity and respect for religious heritage”.
The Western Wall is beneath the Temple Mount and is the holiest place where Jews are allowed to pray. It is one of the only remnants of a retaining wall built around the Jewish Second Temple, which was later destroyed by the Romans in 70 C.E. Temple Mount is the holiest site of Judaism and is the place to which Jews turn during prayer.
The Home Secretary met with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday, where they discussed strengthening UK-Israel security cooperation, according to a statement from the Israeli Prime Minister’s office. Mr Netanyahu also thanked Mr Javid for proscribing Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation in its entirety in February this year.
He also met Israeli Minister of Public Security and Strategic Affairs Gilad Erdan, who called Mr Javid a “true friend of Israel and the Jewish people”. Mr Javid asserted that “Britain and Israel share an unbreakable bond”. Mr Erdan revealed that they agreed to establish joint working groups on combating online threats such as the exploitation of children and terrorist incitement, and on facing the challenge of drones.
On Sunday, the Home Secretary met with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh and UN Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov. Mr Javid reaffirmed the UK Government’s commitment to a two state solution: “The UK remains committed to making progress towards a two-state solution that leads to a safe and secure Israel living alongside a viable and sovereign Palestinian state, with Jerusalem as a shared capital. Only this will further unlock the incredible potential of this region and its people”.
Jerusalem Venture Partners (JVP) hosted the Home Secretary alongside the new British Ambassador to Israel, H.E. Neil Wigan OBE, where they discussed the power of innovation to transform cities, countries and entire regions.
Mr Javid concluded his visit with a visit to Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem, where he laid a wreath in memory of the victims of the Holocaust. He emphasised: “We must ensure such abhorrent crimes never happen again and consign antisemitism to the history books”. The Home Secretary added: “This is why having a National Holocaust Memorial next to our parliament will be so important for future generations. Very proud to have played a role in getting that off the ground”.