NFL players head to Israel to meet locals, visit religious sites
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NFL players head to Israel to meet locals, visit religious sites

Trip to Holy Land will include stops at Rambam hospital, Yad Vashem, and Jordan River's Yardenit baptismal site

Martellus Bennett #88 of the New England Patriots works out during a practice session ahead of Super Bowl LI on February 1, 2017 in Houston, Texas.   (Bob Levey/Getty Images/AFP)
Martellus Bennett #88 of the New England Patriots works out during a practice session ahead of Super Bowl LI on February 1, 2017 in Houston, Texas. (Bob Levey/Getty Images/AFP)

A group of top players from the US National Football League are set to visit Israel next week, Israel’s tourism and public diplomacy ministries announced on Sunday.

The delegation of 12 — Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett, Martellus Bennett, Delanie Walker, Michael Kendricks, Cameron Jordan, Kenny Stills, Calais Campbell, Carlos Hyde, Dan Williams, Justin Forsett, and ESPN commentator and former linebacker Kirk Morrison — will visit Rambam hospital in Haifa, the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in Jerusalem and the Black Hebrew community in the southern city of Dimona, according to a statement.

During the visit, the players will hold an exhibition game together with players from the Israeli Football Association on February 18 in Jerusalem.

Players will also visit Christian sites in Israel, including the Jordan River site of Yardenit, where some of the players will be baptized.

Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy Minister Gilad Erdan expressed hope the visit would offer the players “a balanced picture of Israel, the opposite from the false incitement campaign that is being waged against Israel around the world.”

“The ministry which I lead is spearheading an intensive fight against the delegitimization and BDS [Boycott, Divestment and Sanction] campaigns against Israel, and part of this struggle includes hosting influencers and opinion-formers of international standing in different fields, including sport,” Erdan said.

Tourism Minister Yariv Levin echoed the sentiment.

“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,” he said.

It was not immediately clear who was funding the trip.

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