(Courtesy of FIDF) Legendary New York Yankees superstar pitcher Mariano Rivera toured Israel Defense Forces (IDF) base Michve Alon on Tuesday, July 31, in the Galilee in Northern Israel, as part of a spiritual interfaith mission led by The New York Board of Rabbis (NYBR) and coordinated by Galore Travel from NYC. The New York Board of Rabbis is the largest interdenominational rabbinic body in the world, comprising all branches of Jewish life and working closely with the interfaith community.
As part of this mission, Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) arranged a base visit, where Rivera and mission participants learned about the FIDF programs carried out at the IDF Alon Educational and Instructional Center (Michve Alon base), where support is given to soldiers from at-risk populations to help them adapt to their army service and become successful and contributing citizens. Among the FIDF courses for the about 6,000 soldiers stationed at Michve Alon are those that help new immigrants and soldiers from minority groups learn Hebrew.
“I’m privileged and honored to be here, and learn about the young men and women who are here in the IDF, being trained to be a better person, a better citizen and a better human being,” Rivera said while meeting with the soldiers. “For me, it was something special that I will take with me through my life.”
“We can never say thank you enough to those who are ready to sacrifice their lives for the people of Israel. They are not just our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers; they are their saviors,” said Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, executive vice president of The New York Board of Rabbis.
The NYBR delegation, Rivera, and members of Refugio de Esperanza—Refuge of Hope—the Church where Clara Rivera is the pastor, met with soldiers who study and serve on the Michve Alon base, including Sgt. Emily, a lone soldier from Illinois, and Pvt. Sivan, a lone soldier from Colombia, who spoke Rivera’s native language of Spanish. Lone soldiers are IDF soldiers with no immediate family in Israel, and are supported by the FIDF Lone Soldiers Program.
“We were thrilled to host Mr. Mariano Rivera at Michve Alon to witness FIDF’s important programs in action,” said FIDF national director and CEO, Maj. Gen. (Res.) Meir Klifi-Amir. “Considering Rivera’s own remarkable philanthropic endeavors, including his foundation’s work helping impoverished communities and providing education assistance, we believed that he’d recognize and appreciate how valuable FIDF’s programs are for IDF soldiers of all backgrounds.”
“The IDF follows its historic moral code and, as the melting pot of Israeli society, it not only protects the Jewish homeland, but also cares—with FIDF’s support—for all its soldiers, from a mosaic of religious, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds,” Klifi-Amir added.
FIDF’s educational and scholarship programs transform the lives of thousands of IDF soldiers each year, including its IMPACT! initiative that grants four-year higher-education scholarships to combat and combat-support soldiers from challenging socioeconomic backgrounds. These programs give soldiers the opportunity to break the cycle of poverty and build a better future for themselves as well as the Israeli society as a whole.
Rivera, 48, is a Panamanian-American who played 19 seasons for the New York Yankees and is widely regarded as the greatest closer in modern baseball, and a true humanitarian. Rivera is involved in several philanthropic initiatives, primarily through the Mariano Rivera Foundation and the Christian community.