Documents proving Yemenite immigrants' property theft revealed

Documents prove institutionalized looting of Yemenite immigrant property including ancient manuscripts, art objects.

Mordechai Sones ,

Yemenite immigrants in tents
Yemenite immigrants in tents
Eldan David

Newspaper Yisrael Hayom today presents documents attesting to the theft of the Yemenite Jews' property after they immigrated to Israel in the 1950s.

Publication of the documents comes two days before a special Knesset committee session headed by Knesset Member Nurit Koren (Likud) to discuss the issue of the immigrants' property theft by government officials. This is so it will be possible to determine how the State will be able to compensate the immigrants.

The newspaper reports that among the many documents, for example, is a list of property belonging to immigrants who arrived on at least two ships - the Lutsa and Locke, proving that the property was transferred to Israel and was under Jewish Agency responsibility.

Additional documents attest to correspondence between various government authorities and family members who came to Jewish Agency offices demanding return of their property. For example, on September 11, 1950, Jewish Agency Yemenite Immigrants Absorption Department member Chaim Tzadok wrote to Yitzhak Raphael of the Jewish Agency Immigration Department: "From the beginning of the last immigration from Yemen ... immigrants come and complain about loss of their belongings, unable to determine where they were stolen ... At the same time, many objects belonging to immigrants that they weren't allowed to take were gathered in Hashad and Jewish Agency offices in Aden, with the promise that nothing would happen to the objects and that they'd reach the Land of Israel..."

Also appearing in the documents: "We now have people announcing that they find in a storeroom in Jaffa their bags and suitcases open, with many objects missing ... ... This affair requires, in my opinion, an investigation into what happened to the objects in Hashad and Aden ...This week I visited a warehouse in Jaffa ... There it was told to me that Foreign Ministry officials collect the important and valuable holy books (even when the owners names are written on them) into special boxes and move them away; I don't know if this is justified, that they take private books."

In a letter written by Foreign Affairs Minister Moshe Sharett to the Religious Affairs Minister on July 9, 1950, he warns that this is a treasure of historical value and demands that it be treated accordingly. "This is a ship that reached the shore of Eilat and unloaded 300 Torah scrolls from the Yemenite exile ... I have no doubt that the Religious Affairs Ministry is the only institution authorized to deal with this treasure and bring it to its proper resting place. It is presumed that there are ancient scrolls among the Torah scrolls worthy of special protection."

The newspaper quotes the remarks of Committee Chairwoman MK Koren, prior to the Committee's discussion: "It's not enough that they kidnapped the Yemenite immigrants' children - they also robbed them of their property. Torah scrolls and ancient religious objects and handmade gold jewelry hundreds of years old were distributed among state institutions at the time and were sold to merchants on the grounds that the objects had no owners - and they even set up committees to discuss how and if they'd return the property to the Yemenites. Those innocent Yemenites gave all their possessions because they believed the Jewish Agency and JDC officials who told them the plane couldn't take off with the weight of the property and that they'd receive everything in the country ... There was organized crime here under the auspices of the State."

The newspaper also quoted the Jewish Agency's response: "The issue is painful and it's important to clarify the truth. We have cooperated and we continue to cooperate fully with the Committee. We have provided all relevant information in our possession and will continue to cooperate fully in the future, as necessary." No response was received from the Hebrew University. The response of the Joint could not be obtained.



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