Israeli survivors of music festival massacre interrogated at Manchester airport

Israeli survivors of music festival massacre interrogated at Manchester airport

For Jewish News March 26 2024

Two Israeli brothers who were detained for two hours of “interrogation” by Border Force personnel at Manchester Airport have told Jewish News that once they told the officers they were Jewish, “the attitude just got worse”.

Daniel Sharabi, 24, and his brother Neriya, 22, arrived in Manchester on Sunday, March 24, on a flight from Brussels. They had been invited to speak at Manchester’s Chabad in the City to share their harrowing experiences as survivors of the Nova music festival murders on October 7 last year.

But Daniel Sharabi told Jewish News that as soon as they handed over their Israeli passports at Passport Control, the Border Police asked them what they were doing in Manchester.

The brothers said they had come to talk about what had happened to them at the music festival, which took place at Kibbutz Re’im, not far from the Gaza Strip. “As soon as we said that we were survivors of the murders, we were told to stand to one side,” Daniel Sharabi said.

The pair were detained and questioned for nearly two hours, including being asked about whether they served in the Israeli army. When finally a decision was taken to allow them into the country, the brothers allege that the male officer who was questioning them, together with a female colleague, told them: “We have to make sure that you are not going to do what you’re doing in Gaza over here”.

Daniel Sharabi was distraught as he spoke about the incident. He managed to film the two Border Force officers as they returned their passports to the brothers, with the male officer aggressively telling them: “Keep quiet, look at me, are you clear with that? We are the bosses, not you”.

He spoke to Jewish News as the brothers prepared to return to Israel. “We just want to go home”, he said, adding that though there were other Israeli passport holders on their flight, he did not see what had happened to them or whether they were also questioned by Border Force officers.

The allegation about the Gaza comment and the patently aggressive attitude of the Border Force officer in Daniel Sharabi’s video has caused consternation at the highest levels. In Parliament on Tuesday, the alleged conduct was labelled “a disgrace beyond all proportion” by the senior Jewish Conservative MP, Sir Michael Ellis.

Sir Michael, a former attorney-general, told the Commons that the terrorist attack by Hamas on Israel of October 7 had provoked “widespread antisemitism in this country across the world, with the latest manifestation of this at Manchester Airport.”

Highlighting the alleged behaviour of the two Border Force guards, he added: “Two innocent victims of the (Nova)  music festival slaughter were berated and told, ‘We have to make sure that you are not going to do what you’re doing in Gaza over here’.

“This is to two victims of the Nova Music festival. Blaming all Jews for the actions of their country is obviously antisemitic. 

“These are people in uniform acting for this country as Border Force officers. It is a disgrace beyond all proportion. Their detention for several hours was clearly unlawful.”

Speaking during Tuesday’s latest government statement on the situation in Gaza, Sir Michael then asked Foreign Office minister Andrew Mitchell if “Jews and Israelis are still welcome in this country.”

Mitchell responded that there had been an “absolutely outrageous, shocking and disgraceful incident” being “personally” investigated by Home Secretary James Cleverly.

The minister added that he would “condemn without reservation” the “extraordinary events that appear to have taken place”, made “even worse” by the details of the duo’s detention.

Mr Cleverly tweeted on social media after reports of the incident emerged, saying: “We are investigating this. We do not tolerate antisemitism or any form of discrimination. This incident will be handled in line with our disciplinary procedures”. A major complaint was lodged by the Manchester Jewish Representative Council, whose chief executive, Marc Levy, said: “We request urgent clarification on what immediate steps will be taken, to ensure others travelling with Israeli passports are not subjected to the same

A Home Office spokesperson later said: ““We are aware of the complaint made against Border Force staff at Manchester Airport and are investigating these claims.

“While the facts and circumstances are being established, it must be reiterated that we do not tolerate antisemitism, in any forms, anywhere.”

A spokesperson for Manchester Airport said: “The border is staffed by UK Border Force personnel who are not employees of the airport. These are serious allegations so, as one would expect, we are in touch with UKBF and the Home Office to ensure they are looked into”.
Despite their distress, the Sharabi brothers went ahead with their planned post-Purim presentation to Chabad in the City in Manchester.

The brothers have been described as “heroes” for their actions at the festival. As their friend, lawyer Daniel Berke, noted: “They were partying, the Hamas terrorists began shooting, and they got away — but then they turned around and went back.

“There was a tank which had crashed, its occupants had been killed. Under very heavy fire, they got people behind the tank. Then they climbed into the tank, while RPGs were being fired at it. Then something really incredible happened, they had an argument with God, because they couldn’t find any weapons in the tank. Then they found a machine-gun, but it didn’t work, because it needed grease. So from the people hiding behind the tank, they found a small jar of Vaseline. It was like the miracle of Chanucah”.

Neriya Sharabi managed to get the machine-gun to work and was fighting off terrorists around the tank. His brother Daniel is a combat medic and was busy treating wounded people sheltering behind the tank. Several of the friends with whom they had been partying before the attack were killed at the festival, including their friends Karin Journo and Yosef Ohana.

“They saved many lives,” says Daniel Berke. “But afterwards they were a complete mess. Some moron had the idea of sending Neriya to his reserve duty to come and pull bodies out of the kibbutzim. After two days of that, he was broken.

“So the brothers first set up a WhatsApp support group for survivors, and then asked what they could do to help — almost everyone had PTSD or felt suicidal.” The Sharabis established a not-for-profit group which uses yoga retreats and music therapy to help survivors of the October 7 attacks.

“All they were doing when they came to Manchester was trying to share their story. They thought they had come here for a good reason. This has really upset them.”

  • 26 March, 2024