Israel will send a delegation of military veterans to take part in the United Kingdom’s Invictus Games next year in Dusseldorf for the first time, the organization announced Tuesday.
The games, which were first held in 2014 and founded by Prince Harry, are an international sporting event for wounded, injured and sick members or veterans of the military. Despite requests to join, Israel for years has not been invited to participate in the competition until now.
“Israel has a long-standing respect for the power of sport in recovery, and I’m pleased they are joining our wider community this year,” Dominic Reid, CEO of the Invictus Games Foundation, said in a statement.
Israel was rumored to be set to join the Invictus Games in 2020, sparking a flurry of opposition from pro-Palestinian activists. Due to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, those games were canceled, rendering the matter moot. Seventeen countries participated the last time the games were held in 2017.
“We were very happy to be invited to participate in the Invictus Games Dusseldorf 2023. Being a part of the Invictus Community will provide more opportunities for recovery among veterans who were wounded or became ill whilst serving. In Israel, we have learned a great deal about the importance of physical activity as a positive catalyst for recovery and rehabilitation,” said Limor Luria, head of the Defense Ministry’s rehabilitation department.
Israel has a long history of involvement in the Paralympics and similar initiatives, in part due to the comparatively large number and prominence of wounded veterans in Israeli society.
In addition to taking part in the Invictus Games, Israel will also be made part of the “Invictus Community of Nations,” giving it access to the Invictus Games Foundation’s bank of sport recovery programs.
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Earlier this month, dozens of British military veterans came to Israel to participate in the British-Israeli Veterans Games at Tel Aviv’s Beit Halochem, a campus where veterans can exercise, socialize and take classes.
One of the organizers of those games, Spencer Gelding, the head of Beit Halochem: UK, said those games were set up in part due to Israel’s exclusion from the Invictus Games.