NFL Hall of Famers celebrate opening of Jerusalem Sports Complex
A sports campus named after New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft is opening on the outskirts of Jerusalem, and Kraft, alongside many NFL Hall of Famers celebrated the opening on Tuesday with the city's mayor Nir Barkat and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and an and A-list of NFL Hall of Famers celebrated the opening of the Kraft Family Sports Campus on the outskirts of Jerusalem, Tuesday.
Kraft brought the crowd to its feet with an emotional address in Hebrew about his first trip to Jerusalem in 1963 and his frustration at that time that he was unable to visit the Western Wall. He also described his return to the country four years later in the aftermath of the Six-Day War and the unbridled excitement he felt entering the Old City.
The entire Israeli story, he said, filled him with Jewish pride and thanks to God for allowing the Jewish people to return to the Land of Israel, and for allowing him to live in this generation.
"I am thankful to God, who made it possible for the people of Israel to return to this holy place," Kraft said. "Today, 50 years after (I first visited the Western Wall) I have the great privilege to stand before you… I am grateful for the opportunity to help build the city of Jerusalem, the holy city."
“May the nation of Israel live!” Kraft concluded.
Barkat presented Kraft with the Builder of Jerusalem Award and thanked the prominent philanthropist for his devotion to the city of Jerusalem and to the people of Israel. He said he immediately "clicked" with Kraft during their initial meeting about the project because of their joint love of sports and of Jerusalem.
"We realized that our role—through sports—is to further education and well-being and quality of life and culture," Barkat said. "All to make a better world."
The retired NFL stars—who included several of the biggest names from the history of the game—were clearly moved to be in the Holy Land.
Joe Greene, a defensive tackle for the Pittsburgh Steelers during the 1970s and a member of the team’s legendary Steel Curtain line, told TPS that the visit to Israel was not something he had to take time out for, but rather an opportunity both to contribute to a project for the people of Jerusalem and to connect with the roots of his Christian faith.
"This has been an opportunity for me to participate in something that is very special," Greene said. "I feel blessed to have the chance to come here, to this amazing country, and to walk in the steps where Jesus walked. I was baptized in the Jordan River—it’s been a terrific blessing for me."
"The chance for me to be here with Robert and to impact the kids here… it’s a real honor for me," added Andre Reed, a wide receiver for the Buffalo Bills from 1985 to 1999. "You know, in some countries you spend two-or-three days and say ‘okay, that’s enough for me.’
"But here, every single day has meaning. Every tree, every building has meaning. It’s been an amazing trip," Reed said.
The players then met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and during the conversation, when asked about his policies, Netanyahu tried to draw a link between politics and sports.
"You ask what our policy is? We are striving for peace but must be strong. If we are not strong, we will never achieve peace and will live in a state of war and instability.
"I'm sure that when you get ready for a game you do not ask: 'Should I be strong, fast and agile?' That is not a question.
"Your game is no different from ours. The only difference is that if we lose, the consequences of the loss are permanent. We have experienced enough of this in our history and therefore we will not allow this to repeat itself."
(Translated & edited by Lior Mor)