Did you know Israelis play football? You’re probably thinking that this is a trick question. After all, we know that Israelis play soccer, and countries that play soccer call that ‘football.’ However, in point of fact, Israel has a new football field in Jerusalem – as in American football field.
Donated by National Football League’s (NFL) Patriot team owner Robert Kraft, a new sports complex was opened in June, 2017 in the Emek Ha’arazim neighbourhood in northwestern Jerusalem, Israel. Eighteen former NFL stars accompanied Mr. Kraft for the inauguration ceremony, including Joe Montana, Jerome Bettis, Andre Reed, Roger Staubach, Jim Brown, Eric Dickerson, and “Mean” Joe Greene. Mr. Kraft’s famous New England Patriots have played in a record nine Super Bowls and won five! The team. Led by head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady, won in overtime in 2017.
At the ceremony, Mr. Kraft told the audience, “This is an emotional moment for me. My life is about only doing things I’m connected to. To share this with great players who are here, and see how special this country is, is an honor and a privilege.” He told the story of how, at his Bar Mitzvah, he received tefillin – prayer phylacteries – and one day hoped he could use them to pray at the Kotel, also known as the Western Wall.
“I was at the King David with my wife in 1963 and I remember being so disappointed to be so close to the Old City and not being able to go to the Kotel because of Jordanian soldiers on the walls,” Kraft stated.
“I can’t describe the excitement I felt and the recognition I felt for God that we were allowed to go back to our holiest place,” he said in a reference to the Six-Day War, when Jerusalem was reunified under Israeli control and Jews were once again allowed to access their holy sites. “Now 50 years later, I’m here to stand before you and I’m able to help Jerusalem do this.”
And because this is Israel, in addition to the US regulation football and soccer field, the new sports complex contains two soccer fields. You know. For Israeli ‘football.’