Some 270 runners representing the FIDF IMPACT! Scholarship Program were among the thousands of runners who took part in the Tel Aviv Marathon today. One of them was Ethiopian-born former Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldier Gezachew Fanta (33), whose post-army education was sponsored by Ohio supporters of FIDF.

The FIDF IMPACT! Program provides full scholarships for veteran combat soldiers from the IDF who come from economically disadvantaged families. This is the third year of the FIDF IMPACT! Program having a running team in the Tel Aviv Marathon and this year’s group was the largest yet.

The FIDF IMPACT! Scholarship team of 270 runners at the 2020 Tel Aviv Marathon
The FIDF IMPACT! Scholarship team of 270 runners at the 2020 Tel Aviv Marathon. Photo by Guy Yechiely.

Fanta, who just a year ago was crowned Israel Champion for the 50 km, has completed 12 full marathons, the Boston, Berlin, Jerusalem, and Tel Aviv marathons to name a few. Among his major achievements are finishing in second place among Israelis and fifth place in general in the 2018 Tel Aviv marathon, finishing in third place among Israelis in the 2019 Jerusalem Marathon, and finishing with a time of 2 hours, 20 mins, and 16 seconds in the 2019 Berlin Marathon. This year Fanta ran the 10 km distance to accompany his wife who was running the Tel Aviv marathon for the first time.

"There's something constructive and empowering to run as part of a team, especially with a team like IMPACT!, made up of veteran fighters. Running with my wife is just as exciting as completing a marathon," Fanta said.

Fanta served in a special operations reconnaissance unit in the IDF’s Golani Brigade and graduated from The Academic College at Wingate in Netanya, thanks to an FIDF IMPACT! Scholarship, generously sponsored by Renay Angel and Dan Mendlovic of Beachwood, Ohio.

“I am where am I am today because of Renay Angel and Dan Mendlovic’s kindness and generosity,” said Fanta, who immigrated to Israel at age 19 from Ethiopia with his parents and eight siblings. “Thanks to them, and FIDF, I have a much brighter future ahead of me.”

Ethiopian-born Gezachew Fanta (left) running the 2020 Tel Aviv Marathon in honor of the FIDF IMPACT! Scholarship Program with his wife (right).  Photo by Guy Yechiely.
Ethiopian-born Gezachew Fanta (left) running the 2020 Tel Aviv Marathon in honor of the FIDF IMPACT! Scholarship Program with his wife (right).  Photo by Guy Yechiely.

Since its founding 18 years ago, the FIDF IMPACT! Scholarship Program has provided some 16,130 four-year financial need-based scholarships for deserving IDF combat veterans, raising a combined total of more than $185 million. For the academic year 2019-2020, FIDF granted 4,566 IMPACT! Scholarships to IDF combat veterans who cannot afford the cost of higher education, sponsoring students at over 80 institutions throughout Israel. The power of FIDF’s IMPACT! Program resonates far beyond the individual, as each scholarship recipient completes 130 volunteer hours during each year of study. In this way, IMPACT! is the premier community service scholarship program in Israel, with over 6.1 million community hours served since 2002.