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Prince William 'extremely concerned' about U.K.'s soaring antisemitism


Prince William said he was extremely concerned about soaring antisemitism in Britain during a visit to a London synagogue on Thursday as he returned to public duties two days after mysteriously pulling out of a high-profile royal event.

A week after the heir-to-the-throne called for an end to the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza saying "too many have been killed," William met young ambassadors from the Holocaust Educational Trust who are seeking to tackle hatred amid soaring abuse and attacks on Britain's Jewish community.

"Both Catherine and I are extremely concerned about the rise in antisemitism that you guys have talked about this morning and I'm just so sorry if any of you have had to experience that," the prince said. "That's why I'm here today to reassure you all that people do care and people do listen."

During his visit to the Western Marble Arch Synagogue, the prince, who wore a kippah, the traditional Jewish cap, met Holocaust survivors and listened as Jewish students recounted how there had been what one described as an "explosion" in antisemitism, including death threats and assaults.

On Wednesday, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced 54 million pounds (US$68 million) of new funding to protect Jewish communities after figures showed antisemitic incidents had hit a record high in Britain last year.

Last week's unusually direct intervention by William on the Gaza conflict, with his call for peace and for Hamas to release all hostages, generated international headlines as royals by convention avoid contentious political matters.

But after becoming the first senior British royal to make an official visit to Israel and occupied Palestinian territory in 2018, he has followed the region closely and wanted to speak out about the human suffering it had caused, his office said.

Speculation about 'vanished prince'

His appearance, and the reference to his wife Catherine, comes after he withdrew from a memorial service at Windsor Castle for his godfather, the late King Constantine of Greece, on Tuesday because of a "personal matter," sparking intense speculation on social media.

The 41-year-old had not long returned to public work after he postponed a number of engagements following his wife Kate's abdominal surgery last month, an operation which came shortly before his father, King Charles, revealed he was having treatment for an unspecified form of cancer.

Palace sources said that William's absence from the memorial service was not linked to his father's illness, and that Catherine, who has not been seen in public since Christmas Day, was continuing to do well.

The British royals rarely release details of any medical conditions, regarding them as purely private matters, but some royal commentators said the issues facing the royals were causing unease.

"Bad news, as the proverb has it, comes in threes. A king fighting cancer, a princess stricken by an unknown debilitating illness and a vanished prince with no explanation for his absence have contributed to a febrile and dangerously unsettled atmosphere," Richard Kay wrote in the Daily Mail newspaper. "The most cursory of glances at the rampant speculation on social media ought to persuade even the most unyielding of royal aides that wherever there is a vacuum ­surrounding a public figure, it will be filled."

Leading the family amid the high profile absences has been Charles' wife, Queen Camilla, who on Thursday met Olena Zelenska when Ukraine's first lady thanked her for the king's message of support on the second anniversary of the conflict with Russia.

(Reporting by Kate Holton and Michael Holden; Editing by Hugh Lawson, William Maclean) Top Stories

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