By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News
Darryl Strawberry, a former star of the New York Mets who became an Evangelical minister, is headlining a pro-Israel event on Thursday in the city where he shot to fame.
As a panelist at a Jewish National Fund-USA sponsored event titled “Extending the Branches of Zionism,” he will be doing what he has done for several years already – telling non-Jews why they should support the Jewish state.
“I think the most important thing is, as a non-Jewish person, you have to be able to educate them about Israel,” he told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) over Zoom. “I think in this country, a lot of people talk about Israel and talk about the Jewish people, but they’ve never been there. So they don’t even have a clue.”
Strawberry will be speaking alongside representatives from two JNF programs that he backs, which bring non-Jews to Israel on short trips much like Birthright does for Jews. One is called the Caravan for Democracy Student Leadership Mission and the other is the Faculty Fellowship Program in Israel.
The aim is to have the participants become informed advocates for Israel on American college campuses, some of which have become hotspots for antisemitic and anti-Israel behavior in recent years.
Strawberry himself came to Israel with his wife for the first – and so far, the only – time in his life in 2018. He documented their trip extensively on Instagram, showing pictures of all the places they visited, including the Western Wall, and attaching such comments as, “We made it into Jerusalem, The Holy Holy Land- Life will never be the same for us after this amazing time In Israel.”
He told the news agency that his promotion of Israel among his coreligionists has everything to do with the country’s Biblical sites and is disconnected from any of the contemporary issues currently dividing the country.
“I keep it separated from the politics,” said the one-time great slugger on the team that won the World Series in 1986, endearing him to Mets fans forever. “I know what it’s about — it’s about the people, and it’s about the culture there. That’s what I know, and nobody else can tell me any different.”
Strawberry’s once-extremely promising career crashed after 15 years of diminishing returns on various teams due to drug and alcohol addiction. After he left baseball and got clean, he turned to religion, which “I would have never thought” would become “the true calling in my life,” as he told JTA.
He speaks all over the country to Christian groups about his struggles, which includ estruggling with colon cancer and serving time in prison, and the great turnaround in his life.