JERUSALEM (JTA) — Seven current and former NFL players, including two Jewish brothers, are visiting Israel on a trip that was kept under wraps until the players landed in Israel.
The group, including some family members of the players, arrived in Israel on Tuesday night.
It features Mitch and Geoff Schwartz: Mitch is an offensive tackle for the Kansas City Chiefs, and Geoff retired in 2017 after playing nine years in the National Football League.
They are joined by Pro Bowl cornerbacks Josh Norman of the Washington Redskins and Chris Harris Jr. of the Denver Broncos; All-Pro linebacker Vic Beasley of the Atlanta Falcons; linebacker Avery Williamson of the Tennessee Titans; and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins of the New York Jets.
Several NFL players, led by Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett, pulled out of a similar trip scheduled a year ago. Bennett said he felt “used” by the Israeli government to become a goodwill ambassador. Pro-Palestinian groups urged the players not to visit as well.
The players will visit Christian holy sites in northern Israel, where some of the players will be baptized in the Jordan River. They also will join Friday night Shabbat prayers at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.
On Saturday night, the players will join players in the Israel Football League on the field at the Kraft Stadium in Jerusalem. The NFL pros will pose for photos and sign autographs for Israeli football players and fans. Israel has 1,350 active football players in a semi-pro league and dozens of high school teams.
The trip was organized by America’s Voices in Israel, a nonprofit that provides high-profile Americans with the opportunity to experience Israel firsthand.