New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and Mayor Nir Barkat (C) with the NFL Hall of Famers at the new sports complex. (David Michael Cohen/TPS) (David Michael Cohen/TPS)
Robert Kraft and Mayor Nir Barkat

“Here [in Israel], every single day has meaning- – Every tree, every building has meaning. It’s been an amazing trip,” said NFL Hall of Famer Andre Reed.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and an A-list of NFL Hall of Famers celebrated the opening of the Kraft Family Sports Campus Tuesday on the outskirts of Jerusalem.

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 the time that he was unable to visit the Western Wall, which at the time was under Jordanian occupation. 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 at entering the Old City.

“I am thankful to God, who made it possible for Am Yisrael (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 – all together, together in one [united] city, with prayer for peace.

“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 and to the people of Israel. Barkat said he immediately “clicked” with Kraft during their initial meeting about the project because of their joint love of sports and 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, including several of the biggest names in the history of the game, were clearly moved to be in the Holy Land.

Opportunity to Participate in Something Very Special

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 an opportunity for him to contribute to a project for the people of Jerusalem as well as to connect with the roots of his Christian faith.

“The chance for me to be here with Robert and to impact the kids here… it’s a real honor for me,” said 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.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also met with the delegation of NFL stars.

“If you ask what is the policy? You seek peace but you’ve got to be strong. If you’re not strong, you’ll never get peace and if you’re not strong, you’ll be in war and turmoil. And the worst thing is – you lose. So, I’m sure that when you prepare for your games you don’t say: Well, do I need to be strong, fast and nimble? Is that a question? No. Your game is not different from ours. The only difference is: If we lose, the consequences are immutable. We had enough of that in our history. So, we won’t let that happen again.”

By: Andrew Friedman/TPS and United with Israel Staff