In a meeting with Israel’s Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz, Mr Pickles made clear Britain’s profound concern for the three Israeli teenagers kidnapped last week and his hope they would soon be returned safely to their families. He also discussed issues around means to tackle extremism, regional security and the prospects for peace with the Palestinians.
Commemorating the past was a major theme of visit, as Mr Pickles visited a Holocaust Survivors centre in Migdal Ha Emek, and laid a wreath of remembrance at Yad Vashem, Israel’s memorial to those lost in the Holocaust. The Secretary of State presented Yad Vashem with UK Government’s ‘British Heroes of the Holocaust’ medal, given to British citizens who have saved Jewish people and others from the Holocaust.
Mr Pickles visited the Commonwealth War Grave at Ramleh Cemetery, and laid a wreath at sunset in honour of those British soldiers who gave their lives in the service of their country.
As Secretary of State for Communities, Mr Pickles also met leaders from Israel’s minority communities. He had a meeting with Arab Israeli community leaders at Sachnin. Later, rabbis from Israel’s ultra-orthodox community led him on a tour of Ohr Elchanan Yeshiva.
Commenting on the trip, Mr Pickles said:
“In my meeting with Minister Steinitz, I discussed the security situation. I reiterated the UK’s strong condemnation of the abduction of Naftali Frenkel, Gilad Shaer and Eyal Yifrah in the West Bank, reiterated the UK’s offer of support, and expressed our hope that they will be urgently returned to their families. I said that it was important that Israel and the Palestinians worked together to make this happen and to avoid escalation.”
“I was delighted to visit Israel for the first time as Secretary of State. The UK and Israel have a thriving bilateral relationship in so many areas, including trade and tech and universities. I am proud of the work the UK is doing with Israel’s minority communities, like helping young Arab Israelis working in tech connect with UK companies.
“Visiting Yad Vashem was a profound and deeply moving experience. The memorial is a perpetual and fitting reminder of the pain and destructive force of hate. I was deeply honoured to visit some Holocaust survivors. They are amazing people. It is essential that we remember their stories, and remain ever vigilant for the first signs of intolerance and hate in our communities.”