April 16, 2024
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April 16, 2024
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Marathon runners need to possess ability, perseverance, and the desire to succeed. It comes as no surprise, then, that this last January, motivated teenagers, six boys and three girls, all students at Emunah’s Bet Elazraki children’s home in Netanya, Israel, enthusiastically participated in the half marathon in Miami, Florida. These youngsters and other American volunteers plus some Emunah staff members joined thousands of participants who annually race to raise funds and awareness for various charitable organizations.

For over 45 years, more than 200 children ranging in age from infancy to 18 years have called Bet Elazraki their home, as part of the many services Emunah provides in order to address Israel’s social problems and to strengthen its society at large.

Each one of the Bet Elazraki youngsters who participated in the marathon has experienced great hardship and trauma in his or her young life. These children have been brought to the school because they have been physically or emotionally abused, or their families were too broken or dysfunctional to provide for them. Only through the help and caring of the counselors and teachers at this special Emunah home, have they learned to face their many life challenges and to overcome them.

In gratitude for the organization that does so much for them, the runners were thrilled to represent Bet Elazraki and the State of Israel in the marathon. In addition to help raise necessary funds and recognition for their brothers and sisters back home in Netanya and to show their gratitude to the environment that has nurtured them, this year Team Emunah additionally chose to run for another very special cause. They ran the 13.1-mile race to honor the memory of the eight IDF soldiers from the Golani Brigade’s 13th battalion who were killed this past summer during Operation Edge. As they ran, each participant was inspired and motivated by the sacrifice of Sergeants Nissim Sean Carmeli, Max Steinberg, Daniel Pomerantz, Sean Mondschein, Ben Vanunu, and Staff Sergeants, Schachar Tasa, Oren Simcha Noah, and Oron Shaul. May their memories be blessed.

Back home at Bet Elazraki, the children trained for several weeks, four times a week, in preparation for the marathon. They were guided by Dor, who is the coordinator for the older boys at the home. Dor taught them to be ready to compete with thousands of skilled runners from all over the world, that all they needed was the strength and motivation to succeed. Dor, also a part of the 13th Battalion, took the children on an emotional journey to meet with the families of the fallen soldiers before the group left for Miami. “The fighters looked after us and gave their lives for us,” said one of the boys. “Now it is our opportunity to give strength to their parents and their families.” The families, in turn, were excited to meet the teens and expressed their enthusiasm for their project.

More than 20,000 individuals ran that marathon in order to support various worthy causes. As we watched our own brave children of Bet Elazraki raise the Israeli flag and proudly sing the Hatikvah before they ran across the miles, we could not help but learn from their example that courage and honor exceed all bounds. These teens who overcame so much in their short lives, are indeed evidence that in life, anything is possible and everyone can be a winner.

By Estelle Glass

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