Prince William and Kate Middleton 311 (R).
(photo credit: Reuters)
As the final preparations are being made for Prince William’s lavish wedding to
Kate Middleton at Westminster Abbey in London on Friday morning, I have to
confess that until a few days ago, I was rather indifferent to the hoopla
surrounding this royal event.
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At first I put it down to the fact that I’d
uprooted myself from my birthplace, London, more than 15 years ago, resettling
and rededicating myself to the intricacies and spirituality of the Jewish
Obviously, I told myself, a general lack of interest with the
royal family had been growing inside me for a long time, and on numerous return
visits to the UK, I often wondered how Britain could justify the cost of having
a queen when there is so much poverty, and endorse a hereditary monarchy when it
proclaims to be a democratic country.
I was even known – mostly during my
days as a radical student with socialist leanings – to suggest that Elizabeth II
vacate her official Buckingham Palace residence and hand the keys over to the
multitude of homeless people sleeping rough on London’s streets every night.
It’s big enough to house them all, I argued.
It was only earlier this
week, when a Channel 2 producer called to ask if I’d like to be part of the
presentation team discussing Friday’s wedding live on Israeli television, that I
realized I’m not really one of the many British republicans – some of whom are marking the day by holding anti-royal wedding
parties. Rather, I’m symptomatic of a generation that loves to poke fun
at the royal family while at the same time recognizing that the institution is
part and parcel of what makes us feel inherently British.
many years have passed since I left and I am thousands of miles from my former
home, there is nothing like the spectacle of a great royal wedding – the
carriages, the soldiers, a real prince and princess – to make me feel British
As I told a friend on Thursday, without the royal family, Britain
would be nothing. I am not just talking about the millions of tourists who visit
each year searching out the stately homes and museums filled with royal history,
but more the grandiose events such as this that offer a glimpse of what used to
make Britain great and serve to unite British citizens
According to the British dailies, there will be around 5,500
street parties held across the country on Friday, with local authorities closing
off key streets so that neighbors, who barely say good morning to one another,
can sit side by side and celebrate an event seeped in historical
The ceremonial procedures of William and Kate’s wedding, such
as the parade of the Queen’s Guards in their red jackets with gold trim and
black bushy hats, will keep hundreds of millions of people worldwide glued to
their TV sets; and the famous balcony appearance – once the happy couple have
tied the knot – at Buckingham Palace will allow most British people to rejoice
in a rare national moment.
The proceedings have invoked some of my
earliest memories. The Queen’s Silver Jubilee celebrations were in 1977, and at
the age of five I joined my school friends and family members at a traditional
street party organized by the neighborhood committee.
I have a vague
recollection of sitting at a long table munching on British-style sandwiches,
eating cake and drinking tea, of course. The party planning committee
even gave little souvenirs to the children.
Four years later, I clearly
remember watching as Prince William’s father, Prince Charles, married Lady Diana
Spencer on July 29, 1981. Even though I was more of a tomboy than a
princess fan, the significance of the royal family as part and parcel of my
British roots was not lost on me.
For months afterwards, the event
captured my imagination and I worked hard to save my pocket money so I could buy
a souvenir wedding brochure with glossy photos of the happy couple on their
special day. Despite my radical musings at university, it was one of the few
childhood possessions I brought with me on aliya.
I also remember the
feelings of disbelief and shock when Diana, Princess of Wales, was killed on a
Paris highway in August 1997. I arrived in London a few days later and happened
to be there for her funeral.
After experiencing the collective mourning
of the Israeli people when prime minister Yitzhak Rabin was murdered in 1995, I
was shocked to see a similar outpouring of emotion from the usually stifled
British public. The amount of flowers that amassed outside Diana’s residence in
St. James’ Park were astounding.
Some polls taken over the past few weeks
suggest that 80 percent of Britons do not care about Prince William and Kate
Middleton’s big event, and some cynics say it is only the media that is
promoting such a royalist agenda.
But behind the scenes and in our hearts
I truly believe that even among the staunchest anti-royalists, there is a sense
of pride that the British still know how to put on a good show – and that they
are secretly happy the world’s spotlight will shine on their nation today.