Last Sunday, the media revelaed that there was a carefully planned airlift of 19 Yemenite Jews to Israel. It was carried out with the assistance of the Jewish Agency and the US State Department, and the efforts of a remarkable young man, Manahem Dahari.
Yeshiva World News spoke to Manahem and the transcript of the interview is found below:
YWN: Manahem, how long has it been since you saw your family? How old are you now?
MD: It has been ten years. I left right after my Bar Mitzvah.
YWN: Where did you go when you first arrived?
MD: I came [originally] through [the efforts of] Satmar, I was there for about a year. I did not speak Hebrew, or English or Yiddish, and it was a bit difficult for me. Then I was on my own. This has been the situation since I was 14.
YWN: Wow, now you are in Yeshiva University. From Satmar to YU is a long stretch.
MD: Yes, it took a while.. but I am here.. I spent some time in Chicago, and went to college there. Now I am in Yeshiva University.
YWN: How have you managed?
MD: It has not been easy. I work on Fridays, and some weekends, being in school during the week. I worked in a luggage store.
YWN: What was life like in Yemen? How was Purim celebrated?
MD: I was young when I left and my recollections are poor. I do remember having the Purim meal and the Megillah, but the celebration was much more lowkey than here in the United States.
YWN: How did your parents get out?
MD: Its been a long process. We have been working with the Jewish agency in Israel and the state Dept..
YWN: You got four siblings out in October. Where are they what are they doing?
MD: They are all in Israel now in schools, and they have been all over the media..
YWN: Who helped you in the State Department?
MD: Unfortunately, I cannot talk about it in detail..
YWN: Great. I certainly understand. What do your parents now MD: think about Eretz Yisroel?
MD: The Yemenite Jews were there in Yemen for 2000 years. There is much history there and a lot of culture there. They know that it is an end of era. They are happy about Israel and know that it is the future of the Yemenite Jewish community there. it is exciting – they are safe. At the same time it is sad, because it is the end of 2000 years in Yemen.
YWN: What have you learned in the whole experience?
MD: I have become much more attuned to Jewish history and about the political future of our people in different countries.
YWN: How many Jews are left in Yemen?
MD: 45 or 50
YWN: When do you see your parents?
MD: I will be going to Israel in 2 weeks
YWN: What do you want your parents to catch up on?
MD: On culture, my life.. I don’t even know what to expect actually.
YWN: What message do you want to tell others here?
MD: I want them to know that this is it the history of the Yemeni Jews is very important. Jews don’t exist in a vacuum. I would like to bring awareness to the whole situation.
YWN: What are you studying at Yeshiva University?
MD: I am now studying Marketing and Political science.
YWN: Has your experiences impacted your studies and choices?
MD: Absolutely. I was majoring in biology before this. I chose this because I am fighting for the Jewish refugees. I work with Jimena an organization that helps Jewish refugees.
YWN: Are you involved in other aspects of Klal work?
MD: I attended the AIPAC convention in Washington DC.
YWN: You were there for Trump’s and Clinton’s “pro-Israel” speeches?
MD: Yes, I heard all the candidates – except for Bernie Sanders.
YWN: Where are you holding in college are you a junior or a senior?
MD: I am technically a junior. I have to do another year, I believe because I changed my major. It is, however, worth it.
YWN: Tell me about the Torah scroll that has been in the media – the one that Netanyahu has been photographed with.
MD: In the last few days, the Yemeni rebel government jailed a Jew and a Muslim after falsely accusing them of helping my family escape Yemen and smuggling with them an old Torah scroll. In their statement, they claim that the Torah scroll belongs to the Yemeni government and my family had no right to take it with them to Israel.
The statement is absolutely false and I urge them to release the detainees immediately. The Torah scroll has been in my family for hundreds of years and we will never give it up for anything or anyone. If the Yemeni government wishes to pursue this issue we welcome them to sue us in a court of law.
YWN: Manahem, you are a very impressive young man. I am certain that we will see remarkable things from you, both now and in the future. Thank you for your time.