Eleven National Football League players are due to arrive in Israel on Monday, Feb. 13, through an initiative of Israel’s Ministry for Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy with the Ministry of Tourism in cooperation with America’s Voices in Israel.
Over seven days, the Americans will visit Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, the Dead Sea, Haifa and Christian sites in the Galilee. The trip will include a baptism in the Jordan River at Yardenit.
No Atlanta Falcons are participating.
The NFL delegation includes one member of the new Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, tight end Martellus Bennett, as well as his brother Michael Bennett, who won Super Bowl XLVIII as a defensive end with the Seattle Seahawks. Another defensive end on that champion Seattle team, Cliff Avril, also is making the trip.
The rest of the delegation consists of Tennessee Titans tight end Delanie Walker, Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Michael Kendricks, New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan, Arizona Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell, Oakland Raiders defensive tackle Dan Williams, Miami Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills, San Francisco 49ers running back Carlos Hyde and Denver Broncos running back Justin Forsett.
ESPN commentator and former linebacker Kirk Morrison is joining the group of 11 active players.
“I see great importance in the arrival of this delegation of NFL stars to Israel,” Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy Minister Gilad Erdan said. “I have no doubt that their visit will be a powerful experience for them, and I hope that, through their visit, they will get a balanced picture of Israel, the opposite from the false incitement campaign that is being waged against Israel around the world. I hope that the players will present the beautiful face of Israel to their tens of millions of fans in the United States.”
Erdan said his ministry is leading the fight against the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, as well as other delegitimization campaigns, and that effort includes hosting influencers such as the NFL players.
“Football stars are a source of inspiration for all American citizens. I am sure that, after the experiences that the players will enjoy in Israel and after they have seen the unique tourist sites and the special atmosphere here, they will become ambassadors of good will for Israel,” Tourism Minister Yariv Levin said.
The NFL players’ stops will include the Rambam Health Care Campus in Haifa, Yad Vashem, and Dimona, where they will meet with representatives of the Black Hebrew community.
The highlight of the trip for the Israeli public will be an exhibition game with an Israel Football Association team Saturday night, Feb. 18, in Jerusalem.