Man with Down Syndrome to Serve in the Israeli Army

 A 23 year old man with Down Syndrome will serve in the Israeli Army for the first time ever in Israel's history.

He credits the Israel Tennis Centers as the reason for this success in his life.

Elad Gevandschnaider, is not required to serve in the Israeli Army, but wanted to volunteer. It started with two years of national service in a primary school in the southern part of Israel, Beer Sheva, and now Elad has just learned he has been accepted to serve two more years at an Israeli army equipment base. Elad had dreamed of the day when he would be able to wear a soldier’s uniform and serve his country. Talk to Elad and he will tell you that the primary reason he has been able to do something that no other person with special needs has done in the history of Israel, is because of his love of tennis and how the Israel Tennis Centers have been the focal point of his life for many years.

Elad has been playing tennis for six years. He is the son of immigrants who arrived in Israel in the 1960's. His father is Polish and his mother hails from Morocco. The family live in Beer Sheva and Elad trains three times a week at the Israel Tennis Center near his home: twice in the Special Tennis Program and once on the Achievement Program where he competes with others. At the end of February, Elad will travel to Florida for three weeks to participate in exhibition matches in order to raise funds for the Israel Tennis Centers (ITC) and the special needs children programs.  This marks the first time a player with special needs will travel to the United States and represent the Tennis Center Foundation in such an event.

In the past year and a half, Elad has made great progress with his tennis. It started at the National Special Olympics Israel tournament which was followed by the European Championships held in Warsaw, Poland in February 2010. Elad, during his first tournament abroad, won a silver medal much to the delight of his parents and family. Elad’s father Yossi Gevandschnaider stated: “When Elad was 17 his physical education teacher suggested he should play tennis. I didn't even realize that he was talented or that he had any potential for success. His coaches proposed that he start competing in tournaments organized by Special Olympics which works with the ITC. We started traveling to tournaments throughout Israel where Elad achieved some great results."

In June 2011, Elad continued with his international success – this time at the Special Olympics World Games in Athens, Greece. Four players represented Israel: Elad, Tamir Segal (ITC – Kiryat Shmona) Muhammad Kunbar and Jafar Tawil.  Elad won the silver medal in singles and bronze doubles medal with Muhammad Kunbar.

On their return to Israel, the athletes attended special reception parties hosted by Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu and President, Shimon Peres to honour and acknowledge their achievements. Elad pleased the crowd by singing the Israeli Anthem in full - singing is another one of his talents.

The Israel Tennis Centers Foundation (ITC) is a non-profit organization that has worked for over 35 years to enhance the social, psychological and physical development of Israeli youth through the medium of sport. Most of ITC Centers are located in disadvantaged areas or outlying development towns throughout Israel, from Kiryat Shmona on the Lebanese border in the North to Beer Sheva bordering the Negev Desert in the South.