“And stand in the holy place according to the divisions of the fathers’ houses of your brethren the children of the people” (2 Chronicles 35:5)
Visiting soccer players from the famous Spanish soccer club FC Barcelona, including international soccer star Lionel Messi, visited both Christian and Jewish holy sites on their visit to Israel over the weekend.
The football club was in Israel for a “Peace Tour”, which earned them great praise from Israeli President Shimon Peres. At a reception held at his residence Sunday, Peres praised Lionel Messi and his fellow Barcelona stars as “messengers of peace” according to Haaretz. “Israeli and Palestinian children dream of two goals,” Peres told the visitors in remarks broadcast on public radio. “Scoring the winning goal at Camp Nou, and the great goal of peace.”
“Barca is more than just a club,” Peres said at the reception. “You became each of you messengers of peace. Sport, and football in particular, breaks down barriers. In football there are no victims but always hope for the next match.”
The soccer stars were mobbed by over 25,000 fans upon their arrival on Sunday, the Haaretz report added. The team went to the city of Bethlehem to visit the Church of the Nativity as well as visiting Jerusalem’s Old City to witness the Western Wall on Sunday.
Following the ceremony at the President’s residence, the team gave coaching to Israeli children in Tel Aviv.
This is not the first time FC Barcelona has gotten involved in the Middle East conflict. In October of 2012 Barcelona invited former captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit to watch them face off against their arch-rivals, Real Madrid. The extended invitation ignited calls for boycotts of Barca by a plethora of anti-Israel groups.