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Monday, July 6, 2020

Bialik Rogozin high school’s African refugee cross-country team to rep Israel at world championships

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See also: ““>South Tel Aviv Alleys are going global.

Ramzi Abduljaber, Alam Godin, Fawzi Yusef and Duray Elfaki of Sudan; Meseret Autobrahan of Eritrea; and Efrem Mulushet of Ethiopia will be representing the nation of Israel at “>facing mass imprisonment in the desert and a work-visa drought imposed by the Israeli government. (Mulushet's father, who came out to Tuesday's meet to root for his boys through the fence, migrated to Israel from Ethiopia and is not Jewish. So his family's future is equally uncertain right now, seeing as they don't fall under the United Nations' non-deportation law that protects Sudanese and Eritreans.)

Because of their shaky residential status, flying all six of Israel's champions to an international meet in a far-off country would have been a logistical nightmare, if not impossible. But the stars have apparently aligned in 2014 for the South Tel Aviv Alleys: Turns out the March 30 world cross-country championships will be held right here in Israel, at the very same track where hundreds of the nation's fastest teenagers gathered to race on Tuesday.

“>Refugee teens in Israel win races but not awards.” In the piece, I explained how 15-year-old Rahel Gebretzadik, No. 1 in Israel, was barred from winning any events at the national level, along with about 70 percent of her teammates on the Alleys — simply because they're not citizens. (All speak near-perfect Hebrew and have been attending Israeli schools for the years since their parents brought them here.)

However, there is one set of circumstances in which they are allowed to excel. Because the Ministry of Education runs the high-school team meets and championships — as opposed to more high-level club and individual competitions, run by the Israeli Athletic Association — any child enrolled in an Israeli high school can qualify.

(If you're confused, don't worry — so is everyone else.)

“>depths of South Tel Aviv's Neve Sha'anan neighborhood with a student body that pulls from almost 50 different nations. (The same school, in fact, that inspired the super cheesy yet inescapably heartwarming 2011 film “Strangers No More,” which won the Oscar for best short documentary. Lucky for you, I spent an hour tracking down “>the picturesque Emek Hamaayanot (Valley of the Springs) up near the spot where Jordan, Syria and Israel intersect. The high-schoolers did laps around a dingy dirt trail, encircling a great field and bordering on a date farm. The sun was being moody behind the clouds, the winds were vicious and it even began to rain at one point. Efrem Mulushet's brother, Daniel (pictured above with coach Genossar), who is unfortunately one year too old to move on with his team to world championships, fell a few spots behind in the race because of an ankle injury. But even as he limped over the finish line, he looked ecstatic. They all did.

“I want to cry!” said 15-year-old Samia, younger sister of Ramzi Abduljaber (pictured below before the race began), as she watched her brother take first place by a long shot. She was a ball of giddy sarcasm. Later, at the awards ceremony, passing around her brother's tall gold trophy, Samia said coolly, “I was sure he was going to win. He's the fastest in the world.”

“>Two short months from now, all the best young long-distance runners in the world will converge among the kibbutzim of northern Israel; and there, like me, they will have the immense privilege of getting to know the South Tel Aviv Alleys.

Below: Coach Carmi shows the results of the meet to (from right) Daniel, Efrem and their father, all from Ethiopia.

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