Some interviews really leave an impression. Meeting Daniel Sahalo, an Ethiopian immigrant who arrived in Israel on Operation Moses, has been one of the highlights of my Bite Size radio interviews. Daniel’s story is about courage, strength and adapting successfully to a new country and culture.
It is particularly poignant for me because I remember when Operation Moses and Operation Solomon happened. The feeling of Jews fleeing in the night to “run” to their own State left a strong impression in my mind.
Hear my interview with Daniel Sahalo, head of the Megemeria Department of the Yvel Jewelry Factory for BITE SIZE with Yoni Pollak.
Listen to the Interview –
Daniel came to Israel on Operation Moses in the 1980’s at the age of 5, with his parents and siblings. The journey began with 8 weeks of walking at night to the Sudanese border and hiding in caves during the day. Along the way, sickness was prevalent and after Daniel’s 20 year old sister died of malaria, they were forced to bury her and continue walking towards the border.
As I listen to Daniel’s story it sounds like a Hollywood movie – the Mossad and the Israeli Navy Seals pull off a secret operation rescuing 3500 Ethiopians between 1981-1983.
This was the first mass immigration of Ethiopian Jewry to Israel.
He retells the story of how a traveler in the 60’s came across a village of Ethiopians who practiced Jewish tradition. In the pre-internet age third world countries were disconnected from what was going on in the rest of the world. Although they prayed each day to come to Jerusalem – they didn’t know that the State of Israel existed and that Jerusalem was not just a dream.
For Daniel it’s important to share the full story and not just how they came but how far they have come. Arriving on a Hercules plane (the first plane he had ever seen in real life) and years later standing as an officer in the Israeli army next to the same Hercules plane.
That’s the true story of starting a new life in Israel. The struggles are real but the opportunities are incredible.
Today Daniel heads the sales department of Megemeria at the Yvel Jewelry factory. Itzik and Orna Levy, the owners of Yvel decided to give back to the community by starting an Ethiopian Jewelry school and teaching immigrants a new craft. The outcome has been incredible with beautiful jewelry using Ethiopian culture and Amharic language.
Teach a man a skill and you will give them the best form of charity.
Daniel currently lives in Jerusalem with his wife and kids. When I asked him how he defines himself today – Daniel was quick to respond that he is Israeli from Ethiopian descent. He talks about the importance of passing down the Ethiopian traditions to his “Israeli” kids.
Life is not always easy and simple for Daniel. He deals with issues of racism because of the color of his skin and yet that doesn’t stop him from continuing to defend the State of Israel as an IDF officer.
Daniel travels around the world to share his story and the successful story of Megemeria.
Take a tour of the Yvel Jewelry Factory near Jerusalem, walk through the Ethiopian Craft Village and request that Daniel come to speak with your group. This is such an important story to share with your children.