The ancient City of David welcomed a high-profile guest on Wednesday, when Oscar, Emmy, and Tony award-winning British actress Helen Mirren toured archeological sites in Jerusalem with Mayor Nir Barkat.
Mirren, who has been chosen to award this year’s Genesis Prize, has a long history of interest in the Jewish state. The Genesis Prize honors individuals who have reached the pinnacle in their respective fields and are noted for their contributions to the State of Israel and the Jewish people.
Starring in dozens of films in a career spanning 50 years, Mirren has in numerous occasions taken roles in movies with a Jewish angle, including The Prince of Egypt, an animated retelling of the Exodus from Egypt; The Debt, where Mirren played a retired Mossad agent charged with hunting a Nazi war criminal; and Woman in Gold, the true story of a Holocaust refugee struggling to reclaim her family’s property.
In preparation for her role in The Debt, Mirren immersed herself in Jewish culture, learning Hebrew, studying Jewish history, and becoming acquainted with Israeli society. A source told The Daily Express in 2007 that Mirren was “totally immersed into the way of life over there.”
At the 2015 Israel Film Festival, Mirren slammed the BDS movement, calling it “the craziest idea.”
Mirren’s visit on Wednesday began in the ancient City of David near the Old City of Jerusalem, the area believed to have been the site of the city of Jerusalem during the First Temple period. The actress explored the City of David National Park, concluding the tour beneath Robinson’s Arch near the Kotel.
“It’s just the most extraordinary, moving and powerful experience to be here,” said Mirren. “To look at the incredible work that’s been done to reveal these histories. I’ve always believed in history. I think that we have to remember what happened in the past always as it informs our future and it certainly informs our present. I’m a great believer in that. To be in this situation where you see the past being revealed before your eyes is the most extraordinary, passionate and moving experience.”