"The family was told that he was dead"

Dr Shovali: "The issue of the disappeared Yemenite children needs an parliamentary investigative committee."

Shimon Cohen ,

Yemenite Jews fleeing their homes
Yemenite Jews fleeing their homes
Kluger Zoltan/Public Domain

It is alleged that hundreds of Yemenite children were taken from their new immigrant families while hospitalized for illness or immediately after their birth and given to Ashkenazi families to be raised between 1948 and 1952. It was further alleged that this was done either for discriminatory reasons - out of a belief that Yemenite parents were not fit to raise children or that they did not care since they had large families, or for anti-religious reasons - out of a desire by the State to make the children secular. Childless couples, it is alleged, were given the children while the real parents were told that the child had died in hospital.

The archive of records about the children who disappeared was recently opened, and Arutz Sheva interviewed Dr. Rafi Shovali, head of the organization “Achim V’Kayamim,” the forum of families whose babies disappeared. Dr. Shovali recently examined these records and he spoke about his preliminary findings.

"The archives are primarily a collection of investigative materials of the three committees who investigated the issue," he says and stresses: "these committees investigated the case in order to reach the truth, so I would not expect to find definitive statements. However, there are a lot of documents on the history of the period and many documents from the cases of the families who never received good answers.”

One specific example is a family file which stated that a child was dead and was buried in a certain place, but at the burial site there is no connection between what is written in the file and what is at the grave. The burial records also indicate that it’s someone else grave.”

There was also a general failure of the commissions who investigated the affair: "The committee did not summon many of the witnesses that the committee should have summoned in order to get to the truth." For example, they failed to summon “Miriam Ben-Porat, who was in the Prime Minister office and dealt with issues related to the Yemenite children affair. There were demonstrations in front of her home and allegations raised against her during the period of Rabbi Uzi Meshulem. They invited ministers and senior officials but not her. Why not?”

“We also wanted to know about Ami Hovev, who was apparently also involved behind the scenes and who was involved in the most current report. There were witnesses who were summoned but did not come. I haven’t yet checked their names, but this is not normal that a witness should be summoned and not come and not be forced to come. There were other witnesses who came but were hardly questioned and got away with claims of ‘I cannot remember what happened.’”

What’s needed now, said Dr. Shovali, is to establish a parliamentary committee, a proposal that has already been introduced by MK Nurit Koren (Likud). Such a committee should discuss legislative action, laws regarding the archives, adoption laws, checking graves, DNA testing, and measures to provide access to information for the families involved.

There are also individuals who claim that they were kidnapped. One such case is that of "Tzvi Amiri, of North African descent, who was kidnapped from Rambam Hospital. His mother was looking for him. He grew up in Kibbutz Amir, and learned that he was adopted at an older age. He found his biological family and they had been told that he was dead. His mother at the time didn’t accept this and realized that something was wrong. She ended up having a mental breakdown. He found her hospitalized in an asylum. A whole family was destroyed because of what happened to him.”