Israel Football Honors HOF President

Israel Football Honors HOF President

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Courtesy of the New England Patriots/Eric J. Adler

The American Football in Israel (AFI) men’s flag football league kicked off its 29th season with 40 teams. AFI President Steve Leibowitz, on behalf of the league officials, announced that the three divisions of the league will be named in honor of Pro Football Hall of Fame President and CEO David Baker as well as Gold Jacket Jim Brown and New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman.

Baker coordinated the mission of 18 “Gold Jackets” (a term used to reference living members of the Hall of Fame) to Israel last June, and organized a similar mission called “Touchdown in Israel” in 2015. 


“Baker made many friends in Israel and he has become a true Ambassador for our country,” Leibowitz shared. “Last year I visited the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, and witnessed how Mr. Baker has created a remarkable landmark for the greatest sport on earth.” 

During his speech to more than 1,000 football fans at Kraft Family Stadium in June, Baker had warm praise for Israeli football saying, “10 years ago, the Kraft Family Israel Football league, the IFL, took the field as the first tackle football league in this part of the world.  Israelis of all backgrounds took the field with a shared passion to play American football, the greatest   sport in the world.  In the past decade, more than 2,000 Israeli players competed for the love of the game.  It’s more than just a game for these hearty Israelis.  You are building camaraderie through competition and building bonds through teamwork, which are positively impacting communities throughout Israel.”   

Brown, the former Cleveland Browns’ running back and a member of the Hall of Fame’s Class of 1971, visited Israel this year as a participant in the “Touchdown in Israel II” delegation that brought the members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame to the Holy Land on a mission initiated and led by Patriots owner Robert Kraft.   While in Israel Brown spent a great deal of timing talking to football fans including a special meeting with the local Cleveland Browns Fan Club. “It’s something that I was impressed with when I went many years ago to Israel and then this time,” Brown told the Cleveland Jewish News. “It was my second visit and I am impressed with determinations of the Israelis as a people.”

Brown went on to speak of his respect for the Jewish people.  “The history of the Jewish people is tremendously impressive, to have a culture that works together to overcome all the kinds of atrocities you could have, and to be a vibrant people at this particular time. I use the example of the Jewish people when speaking to African-American young people in this country.”

Edelman is certainly the most successful Jewish player currently in the NFL. Visiting Israel in the summer of 2015 with Birthright, Edelman spent time meeting Israeli flag and tackle football players at Kraft Family Stadium.  Edelman told the gathering, “Exploring my heritage is something I started in the past few years and seeing Israel for the first time, really getting a sense of its history and culture – I now truly understand why it’s so special.”

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