Prince Charles received a rock star’s welcome as he was mobbed through the streets of Bethlehem on his first visit to the West Bank. 

Amid chaotic scenes, the Prince of Wales braved the crowds and the howling rain to deliver a message of peace and unity by meeting Muslim and Christian leaders.

In the historic Manger Square, the heir entered the Mosque of Omar, the only mosque in the Old City of Bethlehem, before signing his name in Arabic in the visitors’ book to the delight of his hosts. 

A while later he made the short walk across the way, to make a personal pilgrimage to the exact spot where Christians believe Jesus Christ was born, in the crypt of the Church of the Nativity. 

Charles was universally praised by religious leaders from several faiths who came together for his historic visit, saying the heir was responsible for “giving hope to all Christians”.

The Prince of Wales, with Roman Krassovsky (to his right), Archimandrite of the Russian Orthodox Church and nuns at the Russian Orthodox Church of Mary Magdalene

The Prince has been a long term supporter in multi-faith dialogue and said he had always strived to bring people together. 

Speaking at a reception in Bethlehem celebrating the ties between British and Palestinian people, the prince said it was his wish that “a just and lasting peace” would be established for all peoples in the region.

He said: “Throughout my life, I have tried, in whatever very small way I can, to foster greater understanding between people of different faiths, to heal divisions and to remind people of so much that we share in common as opposed to what divides us.

"Elsewhere in the world too, I have endeavoured to build bridges between different religions so that we might learn from each other and be stronger together as a result.

"It breaks my heart therefore that we should continue to see so much suffering and division.

The Prince smells olive soap

"No-one arriving in Bethlehem today could miss the signs of continued hardship and the situation you face.

"And I can only join you, and all communities, in your prayers for a just and lasting peace. We must pursue this cause with faith and determination, striving to heal the wounds which have caused such pain.

"It is my dearest wish that the future will bring freedom, justice and equality to all Palestinians, enabling you to thrive and to prosper.

“It is a great regret that my time here has been all too short and I pray that one day I shall be able to return.”

Charles's words of support came as US President Donald Trump was expected to unveil his long-awaited Middle East peace plan.

But the initiative, intended to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, is thought to be an unfavourable one for Palestinians, with the Israelis reportedly set to receive territory gains and other concessions.

Prince Charles met with Muslim and Christian leaders during his visit to Bethlehem

Charles is due to fly back to the UK this evening after his two day tour of the region which aides said he has enjoyed immensely.

The governor of Jerusalem Kamel Hmeid  told the prince how Christians and Muslims had lived for centuries in a peaceful coexistence in Bethlehem, and recounted the story of how Omar was invited to pray inside the Church of the Holy Nativity. 

He refused, saying that if he did it would become a mosque and instead he prayed outside. 

The Omar mosque is named after the Caliph Omar, who conquered Jerusalem in 637 but guaranteed that Christians would be free to continue to worship.

The message of religious co-existence was, said Charles, "a wonderful example".

In the afternoon, Charles held a historic meeting with Palestinian president Mahmood Abbas who thanked him and the UK for its support in support for a two state solution.

The Prince of Wales during a visit to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem

The Prince beamed as he spoke of his “great joy” at being able to visit the region, adding: “I have been looking forward to this opportunity for nearly 72 years, therefore visiting Bethlehem is a great joy.”

Charles, 71, said he his visit had made him “even more aware” of the issues and challenged faced by the Palestinian people. 

The prince later sampled a range of traditional Palestinian olive-based products on a visit to a convent and monastery in Bethlehem. 

Visiting the Carmelite Convent and Sacred Heart Fathers Monastery, which dates back to 1888, the heir to the throne revelled in sharing his interest for conservation with others with the same passion. 

He spent over 10 minutes chatting to conservationist Vivien Sansour, who told him about the key place of olive trees on Palestinian heritage, cuisine and practises.

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The head of the Palestine Heirloom Seed Library said: “The Prince spoke about the importance of joining forces in the work of conversation. He said it was great to meet someone as enthusiastic about this as he is. 

“He’s also an enthusiastic collector of heirloom seeds and invited me to come to Britain to see his work in seed conservation.” 

He also planted an olive tree - a major agricultural crop in the Occupied Palestinian Territories - where they are mainly grown for olive oil production for domestic consumption. The olive tree is seen by many Palestinians as being a symbol of nationality and connection to the land. 

Charles, who is renowned for his love of trees and often makes a touching personal tribute of hope when planting a new one, said: “I hope it will be a blessed tree.”