As we mentioned World Autism Awareness Day on April 2nd, it is important to look around at the world of sports and appreciate all of the strides being made by Jewish athletes on the autistic spectrum.

There are a large number of top notch autistic athletes globally in every sport imaginable. With events like the Paralympics to leagues like the NBA, Autistic athletes are spreading awareness and winning matches at every level of competitions.

Today we want to bring to your attention the Amazing EITAN – ANYONE CAN Association that empowers people with Autism through Sports.

Their goal is to empower, building life skills and a healthy lifestyle for people with special needs through professional sports in the community. Because anyone can!

Last Friday, April 1st, EITAN held the fifth ‘EITAN RUN’ race, raising awareness for people with special abilities. Also, among the runners there are also couples who met during the training and siblings who train together.

The Maccabiah embrace EITAN association and along with Maccabi Israel sponsor the event.

In honor of the event, we wanted to introduce you to a number of great athletes of the EITAN Association and how the association has impacted their lives for the better.

  • Saar, 28, from Ashdod, is one of EITAN's first trainees since 2015. He came to the association through Yaniv, one of the Association’s founders. Thanks to the training he developed independence and running changed his life, until then he hardly left his house and communicated very little with his surroundings. Since he started running, he lives alone and travels around by himself. Thanks to EITAN he has gone from a trainee to an assistant coach and managed to run 42 km in the Tel Aviv Marathon in six months. This was his fifth race.
    More about Saar:

  • Dor, 30 years old from Tel Aviv, is in high function and has been with EITAN for 3 years now. The family was on a mission in Germany and his mother says that until the age of two and a half everything was normal and did not notice any unusual behavior with Dor. When they returned to Israel, Dor began to converge on a world of his own and stopped talking.Today he is completely independent but comes to training with the help of his parents. Thanks to the daily training program of "EITAN" Dor and also managed to run 42 km in the Tel Aviv Marathon in six months.Dor says: "with EITAN I feel like I am ready to run, as if I was born for it."  His mother adds: "Hodael is just our angel, what they give us is more than just sports – we feel like we won the lottery." Dor’s self-confidence improved and he learned to set goals and achieve them thanks to hard work. Thanks to EITAN's daily training program, Dor was able to run 42 km in the Tel Aviv Marathon in six months. This was his third race.
  • Meet Assaf )22( and Shani (37) a couple who have met through "EITAN" and have been dating for 10 months now. They met during the first Covid quarantine when training was on zoom, Shani sent him a message and they started talking on Facebook. In the upcoming “EITAN RUN” race he will run 8 km and Shani 5 km. Both are independent and functional and this was their second race.
  • A strong woman who does not give up and comes to every training session - Meet Adi Yerushalmi, 21 years old, from Ramat Hasharon. Adi has been a member of “EITAN” for about three years. She is in direct contact with Yaniv, one of the founders of the association, "The connection is continuous and there is a feeling of individual attention, it is like a family. There is a human personal response in every situation” says Yaniv. Adi does not give up on herself and goes to all trainings with the help of her father. "She's an integral part of EITAN, there is nothing like that and she's just happy", says the father. Adi ran 5 km in the Tel Aviv marathon and the next race was the second race in which she participated.
  • 33 years old Orit, from Kfar Saba has been training with "EITAN" for about three years. In addition she also dances. Orit joined “EITAN” because she dreamed of running a race, after hearing about the association's activities through friends. Thanks to the training, she reaches new heights, breaks limits and most important; raising her self-confidence and dealing with the environment. She travels to work by bus but comes to training with one of the parents. She ran 5km in the race and danced at the graduation ceremony.

The association was established in 2015 and raises the banner of the combination of people with disabilities and sports training. "EITAN" was founded by Yaniv Banyan and Hodael Yehezkel, childhood friends and currently co-CEOs and founders who served in elite units in the IDF.

During the race, all the trainees will run together with their families and with them will run hundreds of other people.

The goal of "Eitan" is to use sports as a means of empowering and developing communication, behavioral and life skills, independence, personal fulfillment and maximizing personal potential.

Maccabiah CEO Roy Hessing: “The Maccabiah is proud to host people with physical and cognitive disabilities in its games in July 2022. This is one of the only sporting events in the world that combines these populations. The Maccabiah is a home for all Jewish athletes looking to compete”.

Minister of Culture and Sports, Chili Tropper said towards the event: "I see great value in promoting equal rights for people with disabilities and in providing a real opportunity for their integration. A reformed society is a society in which every person has the opportunity to succeed, fulfill his aspirations and move forward in his own way without physical or mental barriers preventing him from doing so. I invite everyone to take part in the important race of the association together with thousands of participants who have one important goal - to raise awareness of autism. "

The Mayor of Tel Aviv-Yafo, Ron Huldai also said: "The Municipality of Tel Aviv-Yafo is proud and excited to take part in the EITAN RUN race & creating an accessible living environment that will allow every person the right to live with dignity".

The founders of EITAN, Yaniv Banyan and Hodael Yehezkel: "The added value of the idea behind our organization is that the training that takes place outside the eyes of all is a proof to us, as a society, that if these great people that has many challenges, can do it - then we can all do! We are proud of all our trainees who break their own records every day, together with a winning team we achieve everything - come run with us, let's run together because everyone can! ".

The "Eitan" association, which works to empower and integrate people with special needs through fitness training, and the Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality, held the "EITAN RUN" race in Park Hayarkon. The race will featured 2,500 runners, including the President of the state of Israel Yitzhak Herzog and Minister of Culture and Sports Chili Tropper and about 500 people with disabilities

The race included four sections: 8 km, 5 km, 3 km and an additional section of 3 km walking.