American Football Owner Helps Build Sports Complex in Jlem, Brings Legends on Israel Tour

Jlem Mayor Barkat, Robert Kraft & NFL Hall of Famers. Photo courtesy of Jeki Levi

Some of the greatest players in American football history recently got a chance to experience a history even more legendary—the Land of Israel. The tour, organized by New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, brought 18 Hall of Fame players earlier during the month of June from the National Football League to tour Israel, as well as to promote the American sport amongst Israelis. While they were there, they also got to assist in inaugurating a multi-million-dollar sports facility in Jerusalem to help honor the 50 years of the city’s reunification.

“We said that you would do great good here, and I hope you felt that you did great good here,” said Pro Football Hall of Fame President and CEO David Baker, who also attended the tour. Baker, in a video of the tour farewell posted to the Patriots’ website, went on to say that “I told you that it might change your life and I’ve talked to so many of you that said that it did change your life.”

Among the players who attended were Joe Montana—considered one of the greatest players to ever play the game—as well as other elite players such as fellow quarterback Roger Staubach, runningbacks Jim Brown and Eric Dickerson, and defensive star Joe Greene. The tour was the second such tour organized by Kraft, according to a press release on the Patriots’ website.

For some of the players, the emotion was tangible as they recollected on how far they’d come from poor upbringings to play professional football and come to Israel.

“I had a dream that I would go to the Holy Land one day, and for a Jewish man to make that possible, I like to tell you and your family, ‘thank you,’” said wide receiver Chris Carter in the farewell video.

Running back Marshall Faulk felt similarly. “Coming from the ninth ward in New Orleans, Louisiana, to be in Israel, unbelievable.”

Defensive end Bruce Smith even had a chance to be in Israel for a special occasion in his own life. “This has just simply been amazing, to have the opportunity, my wife and I, to spend my birthday, and go to the Holy Land and visit the birthplace of Jesus Christ was the most incredible experience that I’ve ever had,” said Smith in the Patriots video.

Smith wasn’t the only one celebrating an anniversary. Jerusalem the city is in the midst of its 50th anniversary of being reunited under Israeli control, and the Hall of Fame players were present to help promote sports in the city during this historic year.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat—a friend of Kraft—welcomed the support and Kraft’s generous donation that helped make the sports complex possible. Barkat, in comments released by his office, spoke of his meeting the NFL owner.

“We both understood the importance of Jerusalem and the importance of advancing sports in our city. Since then, Robert has been an unwavering partner in the growth and development of Jerusalem,” said Barkat.

“This gift, which helps celebrate the 50th anniversary of Jerusalem’s reunification, furthers Robert and his family’s commitment to the capital of Israel, and to enhancing sport and particularly football in Jerusalem.”

Kraft saw the complex as a blend of two of his favorite things—Israel and football. “I fell in love with Israel on my first visit in 1963 and have been investing in its future ever since,” said Kraft in the Israeli press release. “I have seen the positive impact team sports can have, not just on the individuals who participate, but in the communities that support them. They help unify those who might otherwise be divided by cultural differences.”

(By Joshua Spurlock,, June 28, 2017)

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