Ethiopian-born former Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldier Gezachew Fanta, whose post-army education was sponsored by Ohio supporters of Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF), ran the 2019 Tel Aviv Marathon today in honor of FIDF, finishing in ninth place.
Fanta served in a special operations reconnaissance unit in the IDF Golani Brigade and studied at The Academic College at Wingate in Netanya, Israel, thanks to an FIDF IMPACT! Scholarship – which grants four-year academic scholarships to combat and combat-support soldiers from low socioeconomic backgrounds. His scholarship was generously sponsored by Renay Angel and Dan Mendlovic of Beachwood, OH.
“I am here today through the kindness and generosity of Renay Angel and Dan Mendlovic,” said Fanta, who immigrated to Israel at age 19 from Ethiopia with his parents and eight siblings. “Thanks to them, and FIDF, my future is bright!”
“Gezachew is an incredibly inspiring young man, who symbolizes the power of FIDF IMPACT! Scholarships,” said Angel.
Also participating in the marathon to honor FIDF were Ilana and Garry Gamerman, FIDF supporters from Virginia, together with Gabriel Traub, with whom they met and bonded during an FIDF event in Washington, D.C. Traub studied law at the IDC University in Herzliya, Israel, and served as a combat fighter and paramedic in the IDF Paratroopers.
In the marathon today were 150 FIDF team members -- all FIDF IMPACT! scholarship recipients.
Joining the team was also Cpt. (Res.) Ziv Shilon, who as a promising company commander in the IDF Givati Brigade was leading a patrol along the Gaza border in 2012 and was severely injured, eventually losing his arm. Shilon never gave up, becoming a motivational speaker and completing a few races, including an Ironman competition.
Since its founding 17 years ago, the FIDF IMPACT! Scholarship Program has provided some 17,000 four-year financial need-based scholarships for deserving IDF combat veterans, including 4,580 students at over 80 institutions throughout Israel during the 2018-2019 academic year. The power of FIDF’s flagship IMPACT! Program resonates far beyond the individual, as each scholarship recipient completes 130 volunteer hours during each year of study. In this way, FIDF’s IMPACT! is the premier community service scholarship program in Israel. IMPACT! students will not only be able to complete their studies, but will then go on to make good livings, build families, and contribute to a stronger Israeli society.