Omar Ganga fled forced conscription in Eritrea at 14, now he works at a Tel Aviv ice cream shop but his passion is running, he wants to compete at the Olympics but the imminent deportation he is facing leaves his future in doubt.
Omar Ganga, 21, fled his home country of Eritrea seven years ago. He has trained to become an Olympic runner; he hopes to compete in the Olympic Games, but he, along with thousands of other Eritreans in Israel, are facingdeportation
and his future is now uncertain.
- Omar was fleeing forced conscription in Eritrea. While passing through the Sinai Desert on his journey to Israel, he suffered horrific torture at the hands of human traffickers. He was beaten, electrocuted and deprived of food for months, until his famiy members agreed to pay a ransom fee.
He then finally managed to make his way across the border to Israel.
Omar Ganga (Photo: Tal Shachar)
Two years ago, Omar discovered his passion for running. "Every day I run between 10 and 12 km and on the side, I work to support myself," he said.
Omar works at a Tel Aviv ice cream parlor 10 hours a day. "If only I could devote more of my time to sports training and not just after an exhausting day of work," he said longingly. "If I could only train as a proper athlete, within three years I think I can achieve a lot. I love running. It is my dream and what makes me happy."
Omar is a gifted medium-distance runner, able to finish a five kilometer run in just 15 minutes, and a 1,500 meter sprint in four minutes. His dream is to compete in the Olympics, but he is facing forced expulsion from Israel, along with 37,000 Eritreans and Sudanese migrants.
(Photo: Tal Shachar)
He says that a refugee certificate would allow him to compete in the games, but Israel has not issued him one. He does not mind representing Israel, although he does not feel Israeli and has no family here; if conditions in Eritrea improve, he would return, but says he has "been here since the age of 14 and knows Israel better than Eritrea."
The Alley Runners is a social initiative that seeks to empower youth from weak segments of society; they operate running groups in south Tel Aviv. Its director, Rotem Ginosar says: "Omar is intelligent, diligent and talented. Despite his difficult life story he is full of ambition to succeed and is willing to work hard to reach his goals. Now, he just needs to be given the opportunity to do it."