Ex-Israeli PM invited Barber earlier this year

Updated: July 2, 2005, 1:39 AM ET
Associated Press

New York Giants running back Tiki Barber arrived in Israel this past week at the invitation of former Prime Minister Shimon Peres.

One of his first orders of duty: Teaching children how to throw a football.

Barber visited the Palestinian territories Wednesday and was greeted by dozens of giddy children. One of them had a football, but no one knew how to use it. Soon, Barber began showing the children how to catch and throw the ball.

"I thought, 'Now I feel comfortable, now I'm home,' " Barber said Thursday. "I was telling them to keep their elbows up … they did well."

The nine-year NFL player went to Israel thanks to Peres, who met the football player during a trip to New York earlier this year.

Barber visited religious shrines and also made an appearance on behalf of the Peres Center for Peace. One of the ways the center tries to improve relationships between Israelis and Palestinians is through children playing sports together.

After visiting the Palestinian children, whose freedom of movement is restricted because of Israeli security measures, Barber talked about places in New York where kids think the Hudson and East rivers are their boundaries.

"I'd like to work toward providing young people and older people with opportunities to see something else, allowing them to have ideas in their heads they never would have thought about," he said.

Watching children playing sports together on mixed teams in East Jerusalem, Barber said all the children looked the same to him.

"They're just kids, and I think that gives them a chance as a generation to solve this conflict," he said.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press