Former legendary New York Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera visited an Israel Defense Forces base in northern Israel on Tuesday to lend solidarity with Israeli soldiers.
Rivera, who played 19 seasons with the Yankees and was widely regarded as one of the best closers in baseball history, was in Israel as part of a spiritual interfaith mission led by the New York Board of Rabbis.
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 in Israel.
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 soldiers. “For me, it was something special that I will take with me through my life.”
Rivera was joined in the visit by members of his church, Refugio de Esperanza-Refuge of Hope in New Rochelle, N.Y., where his wife, Clara, serves as pastor. Rivera is involved in several philanthropic initiatives, primarily through the Mariano Rivera Foundation and the Christian community.
“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 believe that he’d recognize and appreciate how valuable FIDF’s programs are for IDF soldiers of all backgrounds.”