New England Patriot’s owner Robert Kraft is in Israel this week along with 19 NFL Hall of Fame football stars as part of a special solidarity mission with the Jewish state.
“Touchdown in Israel: Mission of Excellence” is being sponsored by the Jewish billionaire, the first trip of its kind specific to former Pro Football Hall of Famers, ESPN reported.
The mission kicked off in a special ceremony at Kraft Stadium on Sunday, the stadium he built in Jerusalem. Fans and players gathered to sing the Israeli and American national anthems. “I am very emotional,” he told Israel Hayom.
Expressing his joy at being once again in Jerusalem, Kraft expressed his hope that one day he would see an Israeli player in the NFL.
Reflecting on his Jewish roots, Kraft explained, “I grew up in a traditional family. I put on tefillin when I was young. My first trip to Israel was in 1963, for my honeymoon, and I remember how angry I was when I looked out the balcony at the King David Hotel and saw armed Jordanian soldiers keeping me from visiting the holy sites.”
“After the Six-Day War, we were able to go and pray. I was in favor of building bridges between the people,” he added.
Right behind the US, Kraft said that “Israel is my favorite place to be. Where else can you find the two holiest sites to the monotheistic faiths side by side?”
“Touchdown in Israel” is one of Kraft’s ways of helping to improve the worldview image of the Jewish state. The idea to bring the Hall of Famers to Israel originally came from current Israeli ambassador to the US Ron Dermer.
“I was on a trip to Canton, Ohio, and I visited the Hall of Fame. I thought to myself that these people are like modern gladiators; people in American worship them. They have the same value as a year’s worth of public diplomacy [for Israel],” he told Israel Hayom.
Pro Football Hall of Fame running back Curits Martin is one of the 19 former players on “Touchdown to Israel.” The NFL all-star told ESPN, “This whole trip to Israel has been one of the best experiences in my life.”
Other Hall of Famers include former Patriots Raymond Berry, Mike Haynes, John Hannah, Andre Tippet, and former Bills running back Thurman Thomas.
As Martin explained, “I feel like I can speak for everyone on this trip, we have all be impacted in a very spiritual way.”