US Army Vets Surprised to Find Israel a 'Beautiful Country’
Wounded U.S. Army veterans visiting Israel on a bike riding tour have discovered that American mainstream media give a false picture of Israel.
An IDF reporter accompanied the veterans of the Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) during their tour, co-sponsored by Friends of the IDF. The tour began north of Tel Aviv two weeks ago and continued thorough Tiberias in the north and Nahariya on the northwestern Mediterranean coast.
In between, the veterans who suffered injuries in battles in Iraq and Afghanistan toured Jerusalem.
Standing on a rooftop overlooking the Temple Mount, the veterans tried to soak up the beauty of the Holy Land. "Back in the States, when we see Israel on the news, for example, it seems like a terror stricken country filled with war,” said a veteran nicknamed Big Joe. “But when we arrived here, we stood in front of a beautiful country. And it seems like IDF soldiers perform their duty with passion, even though they are obligated to serve. And I think that's what turns them into better citizens.”
The veterans left the capital to continue their bike tour through the IDF tank museum at Latrun, west of Jerusalem, and to Masada, overlooking the Dead Sea. They also dined with U.S. ambassador to Israel James Cunningham and visited the IDF induction center to see how new soldiers are processed.
Friends of the IDF member Liron said that the bicycling project began in the United States at the initiative of a non-Jewish soldier who fell in love with Israel after a visit. “He felt the need to bring Israeli soldiers to the United States to ride with American soldiers,” Liron added. “He’s done so every July for the last four years when WWP holds a bike tour “in New York.
"The project developer found it very important to bring American vets to Israel,” said Bob Grant, volunteer from Florida about the joint trip of U.S. Army and IDF veterans. This year is the first time the WWP has brought the veterans to Israel for a bicycling tour.
Sgt. Juan Arredondo, who lost his hand in a bloody attack in Iraq, said, “The U.S. army and the IDF have a lot of things in common such as our similar fighting situations - urban warfare. However, we go far from home to protect America, but here you are fighting for your own right to live. Your fights take place in your own backyards.”
WWP executive director Steve Nardizzi remarked, "We are truly honored and moved to see our American heroes riding alongside veterans of another nation’s armed forces and welcomed so warmly in Israel."