Christopher Reeve Visiting Israeli Terror Victims, Research Institutes

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:13 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - American actor Christopher Reeve is visiting leading Israeli research institutes, hospitals and terror victims this week on a four-day trip to the region to promote a cause that's close to his heart.

Reeve, of "Superman" fame, was paralyzed from the neck down in 1995, when he was thrown from his horse during an equestrian competition in Virginia. He is now an advocate for spinal cord research and the chairman of the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation.

Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom officially welcomed Reeve to Israel on Monday evening, hailing him as a "hero" and a "true friend of the Israeli people, to our country."

"Mr. Reeve is in Israel to visit our research institutes, hospitals, and scientists who are helping the world make tremendous advances related to the treatment of spinal cord injuries," said Shalom.

"But that is not all. He has chosen to meet with the courageous patients, some of them survivors of terrorist attacks, to share with them the message that they are not alone in the day-to-day struggle to reach for a better tomorrow," he added.

"Shalom Israel," Reeve said to his hosts. "I am honored to be here in this part of the world," he said. "Israel is an extraordinary place. I have wanted to visit for a long time, from even before I was injured.

"There are many people here suffering. And many people here are healing.

"Some of the best research is happening in Israel. Some of the best care for patients is happening in Israel. I am here to watch, to learn, to observe. I am here to bring a message of hope to those who are healing here. I am also bringing a message to the United States of what more we can do with scientific research. Israel is among the world leaders in scientific research," he said.

Reeve was scheduled to visit the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, south of Tel Aviv, on Tuesday.

According to its website, the Weizmann Institute "is one of the top-ranking multidisciplinary research institutions in the world... [with] 2,500 scientists, technicians and research students devoted to adventuring into the unknown."

It is a world leader in spinal cord injury research.

There, Reeve will also meet 25-year-old Elad Wassa, a 25-year-old immigrant from Ethiopia, who was paralyzed from the chest down a terror attack in Netanya last year.

Wassa had written to Reeve to tell him that he had provided him with hope and inspiration. The letter apparently encouraged Reeve to visit Israel. Wassa is undergoing rehabilitation in a Tel Aviv hospital.

"For those living with disabilities, there is an advantage of living in a global village, Reeve said. "We all need to see the world as one place, in which we are all equal and we all have hope where we can make progress together....

"Scientists should sense the urgency. Every day counts for those who are healing. What is important is what helps man heal. Applied research can help many of us heal quicker and as safely as possible," he said.

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