TEL AVIV, Israel - Two Eitrean refugees, who arrived in Israel just six months ago, took first and second place in Tel Aviv's 10,000 meter (six mile) road race.
John Pasahi and Taspaldat Dasta, both 17, fled the blood bath in their native Eitrea, traveling by foot through the Sudan and Egypt, entering Israel from the Sinai and seeking refugee status here.
"I escaped from Eritrea to Sudan because of the terrible war," said Pasahi, who crossed the finish line in 33.47 minutes to win the race. "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," he said.
Dasta, who finished second with a time of 35.49 minutes, was also sent to the youth village.
"I was very happy after the race in Tel Aviv," Dasta said. "I received a medal and all the kids at Kadoorie were very happy and supportive," he said.
Though he misses his family, Dasta wants to live in Israel, serve in the Israel Defense Forces, and represent his adopted country in the next Olympic Games.
"But my biggest dream is to represent Israel in the Olympics. I can't even describe how exciting it would be for me to realize this dream," he said.
Hillel Hillman, Kadoorie's principal, said the boys shared their experiences with residents of the youth village.
"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," Hillman said.
Upon discovering their love of running, the staff at the youth village found a trainer to coach them. After doing well in several shorter races in the north, they entered the six-mile run in Tel Aviv.
Shlomo Ben-Gal, director of the Israeli Athletics Association, was also impressed with their performances in the weekend race.
"We will certainly do everything to include them on our athletics' team," Ben-Gal said.
Source: YNet news