More than 100 Israeli and British injured veterans joined in Israel for the inaugural Veteran Games and Conference, a five-day event hosted by Zahal Disabled Veterans’ Organization at the Beit Halochem rehab, rec and sports centers in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem for disabled vets and their families.
Participants ranging from their 20s to 50s, and accompanying family members, gathered for friendly competitions in sports such as swimming, X-Fit, and rifle shooting, and met with international experts on post-trauma and rehabilitation.
“Looking around this room, I see true heroes who answered their country’s call and went to war to preserve our values and protect us all. I salute you,” Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said to the veterans during a visit to his official residence in Jerusalem on May 30.
The Veteran Games – under the motto “Uniting extraordinary people” — was organized by Beit Halochem UK and the Embassy of Israel in London following on a successful Israeli-British conference on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and mental health in combat veterans, which featured a visit to Beit Halochem in Tel Aviv.
Support for the Veteran Games, modeled after the Invictus Games created for wounded UK veterans by Prince Harry, was provided by 10 different charitable organizations in the UK and Israel.
“Shared experiences for military veterans are a strong source of physical and mental healing, even more so across differing nationalities,” said Jonathan Ball, chief executive of the Royal Marines Charity, one of the donors. “We are sure that this will ensure a powerful bond and new enduring friendships at the games.”
The visitors and their Israeli hosts also had a culinary tour of Tel Aviv, dinner in the Judean desert, a trip to the Old City of Jerusalem, The First Station and Yad Vashem, a concert, and a memorial ceremony at the British war cemetery in Ramla.