Clark Harris of the Cincinnati Bengals (Wikimedia Commons) (Wikimedia Commons)
Clark Harris

When long-snapper Clark Harris gifted an Israeli Bengals fan with playoff tickets, a diplomat in New York took notice.

By Pesach Benson, United With Israel

Long-snappers aren’t the well-known football players. Their job is to quickly and accurately snap the ball between their legs to a punter or kick-holder several yards back, and then hold off defenders intent on blocking the kick.

As a result, long-snappers are only noticed when something goes wrong.

But Clark Harris of the Cincinnati Bengals just cemented himself into the hearts and minds of Israelis ahead of Sunday’s Super Bowl and even earned himself an invitation for an official visit by one of Israel’s top diplomats in New York.

That’s because Harris gifted Israeli Bengals fan Yakov Hammer with tickets to the recent AFC Championship game in Kansas City. By winning that game, the Bengals advanced to the biggest game of all, where they will play the favored Los Angeles Rams.

According to reports in local Cincinnati media, the story began months ago when Hammer, a 27-year-old physics and engineering student at Israel’s Ariel University, posted on social media that he would fly to the US and attend the AFC championship if the Bengals made it.

Hammer was born and raised in Israel, but lived in Cincinnati for several years and caught the team’s “jungle fever.”

At the time, the Bengals were coming off 4-11 season the previous year. Star quarterback Joe Burrow showed promise, but the idea of the Bengals reaching the Super Bowl was still wishful thinking for most fans.

So when the Bengals upset the Tennessee Titans to advance to the AFC Championship Game, Hammer contacted the team and reached out to the players on social media. Somebody associated with the local WLWT TV station put Hammer in touch with Harris, and Harris tweeted he’d be honored to provide Hammer with tickets.

That’s how Hammer ended up flying 7,000 miles to see the Bengals defeat the Chiefs with a dramatic overtime field goal. And as a result of that gesture, Asaf Zamir, Israel’s consul-general in New York invited the veteran long-snapper and his wife Jessica to visit Israel.

While there are plenty of ex-pats from Los Angeles living in Israel, not so many come from Cincinnati, said Rabbi Dov Lipman, a former MK and founder and CEO of Yad L’Olim, which advocates for immigrants. Lipman, who lived in Cincinnati, told United With Israel he’ll be staying up for the Super Bowl.

“As someone who lived in Cincinnati for three wonderful years, this gesture doesn’t surprise me. It’s a large city with a ‘small town USA’ feel to it,” Lipman told United With Israel. “I am so happy for Yaakov who I know well, and everyone with a connection to Cincinnati is excited about the Super Bowl. I look forward to welcoming Clark and his wife to Israel.”

“I know one thing as I have seen from other visited athletes – once they get here and experience Israel this won’t be their only trip here,” Lipman added.

“When people with high profiles come to Israel and share their experiences with their followers, all the falsehoods and myths that are widely spread about Israel are debunked. They describe the incredible, flourishing, open democratic, peaceful, and civilized Jewish state and this transforms hearts and minds to recognize the truth about Israel.”

For Harris’s new fans planning to watch the game, the Super Bowl kicks off at 1:30 AM Israeli time.

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