Wounded British and Israeli soldiers to compete in groundbreaking Veteran Games
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Wounded British and Israeli soldiers to compete in groundbreaking Veteran Games

Former service personnel will participate in five-day Tel Aviv event next week, to celebrate the vital roles sports and family play in rehabilitation

Justin Cohen is the News Editor at the Jewish News

Prince Harry watches sports during the presentation of the Invictus Games  (Photo by ANP Royal Images Pool via Sipa USA)
Prince Harry watches sports during the presentation of the Invictus Games (Photo by ANP Royal Images Pool via Sipa USA)

Wounded British military veterans will travel to Tel Aviv next week to compete with their Israeli counterparts in a groundbreaking new initiative more than a year in the planning.

Partners and children of the injured personnel will join the five-day Veteran Games to celebrate the vital roles sports and family play in rehabilitation. Taking place at rehabilitation centres run by the charity Beit Halochem in both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, the initiative will include a conference on PTSD and mental health featuring leading professionals from both countries and a programme for families to encourage them to share experiences and build friendships.

The event, which is the brainchild of BHUK and the Embassy of Israel in London, is supported by leading rehabilitation and forces organisations including The Royal Marines Charity, RAF Benevolent Fund, Rock to Recovery, Veteran Scotland, Combat Stress, The Not Forgotten Association and Association of Jewish ex-Service Men and Women.

A number of the more than 100 competitors – who will also have the chance to try new sports – have won medals at the Prince Harry-founded Invictus Games.

Jonathan Ball, Chief Executive of The Royal Marines Charity, said: “Shared experiences for military veterans are a strong source of physical and mental healing, even more so across differing nationalities who are battling identical challenges. We are sure that this will ensure a powerful bond and new enduring friendships at the Games

“However, the experiences and battles of their dependents are often forgotten. So we are delighted that the families of our Royal Marines will meet and share with others from Britain and Israel at these Games, and will find that shared common burdens become lighter. We are immensely grateful to the Sponsors who have made this possible through their generosity.”

Among the participants will be Matt Tomlinson, former Regimental Sergeant-Major of HM Royal Marines who received the Military Cross for bravery. He added: “The transition to civvy street is hard enough but what you see on deployment can leave you with many intrusive thoughts that never go away. The many deaths of friends can take its toll on anyone’s mental health.”

The Chelsea Foundation is also backing the Games by providing football coaching for families and specialist workshops for Israeli sports teachers. Bruce Buck, Chelsea FC Chairman: “At Chelsea FC we have supported veterans in our local communities for many years and have seen the healing power sports can have to overcome challenges and unite people. Our coaches will be meeting and working with veterans and their families throughout the week-long event and I trust that we will learn a lot from their ways of overcoming the many challenges they are facing every day.”

The landmark conference element will be chaired by Sir Simon Wessely, consultant adviser in psychiatry to the British Army, along with Professor Zahava Solomon. He said: “It is vitally important to look not just within our own country and its armed services, but also to look beyond. Some important issues will be missed if we are solely inward-looking.”

The programme is funded by donations from The Patron Charitable Initiatives, The Pears Foundation, Rachel Charitable Trust, The Wolfson Family Charitable Trust, The Exilarch’s Foundation, The Maurice Wohl Charitable Foundation and The Charles Wolfson Charitable Trust.

Spencer Gelding, Chief Executive of Beit Halochem UK, said: “We’re extremely proud to be a founding partner of the inaugural Veteran Games & Conference. The contribution of the armed services is immeasurable, and it is our ambition to help pave the way for best practice with regards to physical and mental rehabilitation of wounded veterans.

“We hope this pioneering initiative will be the start of a long-term relationship. It will also be an opportunity to show the unique facilities that Beit Halochem offers to its 51,000 members and a chance to explore Israel’s rich culture and vibrant society.”

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