African refugees (archives)
Photo: AFP

Teen refugees win Tel Aviv race

Two young Eritreans who fled their country only six months ago win first and second place on national 10,000 meter road race this weekend. Now they dream of representing Israel in the Olympic Games

It was only six months ago that John Pasahi and Taspaldat Dasta, both 17-years old, fled the bloody civil war in their homeland of Eritrea, crossed through Sudan and Egypt to Sinai, and at the end of an exhausting and dangerous journey found refuge in Israel.


Last Friday the two young men won the Israeli championships in the 10,000 meter road race for competitors below 19, which was held in Tel Aviv.

Running for their lives (Illustration photo: Visual/Photos)


"I escaped from Eritrea to Sudan because of the terrible war," recounted Pasahi, who won first place with a result of 33.47 minutes. "The journey took me several months, and after I crossed Sinai and arrived in Israel I was sent to study at the Kadoorie Youth Village in the Lower Galilee."


Dasta, who won second place in the race with a result of 35.49 minutes, also arrived at Kadoorie after enduring the long journey from Eritrea.


The principal at the youth village, Hillel Hillman said that "when they got here they told us horrific stories of parents who disappeared in the war, of hunger, plundering and a difficult, long journey through Egypt."


'I want to join the IDF'

Soon after their arrival at the village their teachers found out of Pasahi and Dasta's love for running, and decided to encourage it by providing them with a trainer and allowing them to train in the area surrounding Kadoorie.


According to Hillman, their results showed "huge potential", and after attending several small races in the north, the two decided to test their abilities in the Tel Aviv Marathon.


"I was very happy after the race in Tel Aviv," Dasta said Saturday. "I received a medal and all the kids at Kadoorie were very happy and supportive."


Dasta said that although he misses his family and country, he would like to stay in Israel, become nationalized and enlist in the army. "But my biggest dream," he said, "is to represent Israel in the Olympics. I can't even describe how exciting it would be for me to realize this dream."


And this dream might even come true. Director of the Israeli Athletics Association Shlomo Ben-Gal, who first heard of the two young men and their impressive achievements on Saturday, said that their excellent results indicate great potential.


"We will certainly do everything to include them on our athletics team," he stated.


פרסום ראשון: 11.09.08, 19:06
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