July 29, 2003, Updated September 12, 2012

During actor Christopher Reeve’s historic trip to Israel last month, ISRAEL21c used satellite and fiber optic technology to send the video images back to the U.S. and distributed them to television news organizations. As a result, 254 television news stories about Reeve’s fact-gathering visit on Israel’s cutting edge spinal cord injury research were broadcast, including 100 stories in the 25 largest markets in the U.S. and another 54 in markets 26 to 50. This was a collaborative effort with the Los Angeles consul general Yuval Rotem and with the Israeli Foreign Ministry media staff.
Our work with print journalists also shaped the message on their stories which were used by hundreds of newspapers and other media around the world. Here is Reuters’ account of Reeve’s visit.

‘Superman’ Star Meets Israeli Paralyzed by Bombing

July 29, 2003

REHOVOT, Israel (Reuters) – After a Palestinian suicide bombing in an Israeli market left Elad Wassa paralyzed from the chest down, he sent off a letter to Superman.

Christopher Reeve, the American actor who played the Man of Steel in the 1978 hit movie and three sequels before a 1995 horse-riding accident crushed his spinal cord, said he was so moved by the young man’s letter that he had to meet him.

“You are my hero,” the 25-year-old Ethiopian immigrant told Reeve Tuesday as they sat side by side in their wheelchairs at the Weizmann Institute of Science in central Israel.
Reeve, who has emerged as a high-profile international campaigner for victims of spinal cord injuries, chose to visit the institute because it is a key center for stem cell research, which some scientists believe could yield a cure.

Speaking in short bursts timed to coincide with his breathing on a respirator, Reeve said: “(Wassa’s) a young man and a victim of random violence in this country that’s seen so much violence. It was not hard to make the decision to come.”

Wassa was working as a vegetable vendor at a open-air market in the coastal city of Netanya in May 2002 when a suicide bomber blew himself up, killing three people. Shrapnel pierced his spinal cord, confining him to a wheelchair.
Like Reeve, Wassa is undergoing intense physical therapy and vows to walk again. “This young man is incredible,” Reeve said.

The 50-year-old actor, paralyzed from the neck down, has said he is continuing to regain some movement and sensation.

Michal Schwartz, an Israeli cell therapy researcher at the Weizmann Institute, visited Reeve shortly after his accident.
Based on Schwartz’s research, an Israeli pharmaceutical company has completed the first phase of clinical trials on patients with less serious spinal cord injuries.

Schwartz believes such treatment would not help Reeve or Wassa due to the severity of their injuries, but she expressed optimism that a cure would one day be found for such cases.

“I believe more than ever there is an opportunity that we or others will find a cure for chronic patients,” she said.

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Jason Harris

Jason Harris

Executive Director

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