'Soldiers cut off children's peyot in transit camps'

Letter by 1950 manpower head: Soldiers sent to assist Yemeni immigrants during absorption process cut off their peyot and disparaged them.

Mordechai Sones ,

Transit camp in early days of the State
Transit camp in early days of the State

Factual corroboration of historical rumors in the Yemenite children affair continue in the form of a letter written by then IDF Personnel Directorate head General Shimon Mazeh in 1950. The letter reveals that soldiers sent to assist Yemenite immigrants in the absorption process cut off their peyot (sidelocks) and disparaged them.

In his letter Mazeh demanded that commanders and soldiers instruct subordinates to take the feelings of religious immigrants into account in the transit camps and to discipline those who do not.

The letter, revealed this morning in Israel Hayom, was kept in the IDF archive and came more than six months after a government commission of inquiry determined that cutting peyot of immigrant children was done systematically and deliberately - a conclusion that was supposed to stop the practice already then.

At the head of the document it was emphasized that this was a "secret - personal" letter, and that it was "urgent."

Under the heading "Re: IDF soldiers' conduct in transit camps," Mazeh notes that "a number of transit camps ("Ma'abarot") the IDF has taken charge of are settled by religious people. Complaints were received from a number of residents in these camps regarding cases of attacks on religious sensitivities by military personnel. These cases were based on conversations between soldiers and residents of the transit camps - adults and children - who were humiliated, whose children's sidelocks were cut off, etc."