Marking the first time that a member of the British royal family has visited the State of Israel, Prince Philip arrived here Sunday for a ceremony honoring his mother’s efforts to save a Greek Jewish family during World War II.
The Duke of Edinburgh, who is the husband of Queen Elizabeth II, met Monday with members of the family whom his mother, Princess Alice of Greece, hid in her Athens palace for 13 months during the Nazi occupation of Greece.
At a ceremony at the Yad Vashem Memorial in Jerusalem, Prince Philip accepted the Righteous Among the Nations award that was bestowed posthumously upon his late mother.
He also planted a maple tree in memory of his mother along the Avenue of the Righteous Among Nations, which commemorates gentiles who saved Jews during the Holocaust.
“God brings everything we do to judgment,” the prince wrote in the visitors’ book at Yad Vashem.
Prior to the ceremony, Philip visited the crypt in the Church of St. Mary Magdalene on the Mount of Olives, where his mother’s coffin lies. Princess Alice died in 1969. In 1988, she was reinterred at the Russian Orthodox church in accordance with her dying wishes.
Princess Alice joins more than 12,000 others recognized as Righteous Gentiles for saving Jews from the Holocaust.
In September of 1943, members of the Cohen family, from the Greek town of Trikala, appealed to Princess Alice for refuge. An acquaintance of theirs, she took them in and hid them until the Nazis withdrew in October 1944.
The story was not known until two years ago, when Michel Cohen, 78, told officials at Yad Vashem of how he, his mother and sister were saved by the princess.
The surviving members of the Cohen family now live in France. They flew to Israel to attend the ceremony.
Philip, accompanied by his sister Princess Sophie, was met at Ben-Gurion Airport on Sunday by Education Minister Amnon Rubinstein.
While the visit is considered a private one, Rubinstein said it reflected Israel’s changed status in light of the peace process.
“It is another sign of the much warmer and better relationship between Israel and the United Kingdom,” Rubinstein said.