A mystery that defies solution
(C) reprinted with the permission of Haaretz Daily (English)
A national commission of inquiry into the disappearance of Yemenite children during the early years of the state, has unequivocally rejected claims of "an all-inclusive establishment plot" to take children away from Yemenite immigrants and hand them over to childless families for adoption during the early years of the state.
The commission report, published on November 4, after almost seven years of work, determined that documentation exists for 972 of the 1,033 missing children whose cases were investigated by three commissions (the current commission and two previous ones). Five additional missing babies were found to be alive. The commission was unable to discover what happened in another 56 cases.
With regard to these cases, the commission deemed it possible that the children were handed over for adoption following decisions made by "individual" local social workers - but not as part of an official Israeli establishment policy.
In 1967, the State of Israel opened a committee of inquiry – the first of three – based on claims by immigrants from Yemen that between 1949 and 1952, hundreds of Yemenite children who had disappeared from immigrant camps, clinics and hospitals had been "snatched" by the government. The parents alleged that their children had been taken from them, and that Israeli and Jewish organizations had neither told them what had happened to the youngsters nor provided them with death certificates.
The inquiry found that the children had not been kidnapped. A second commission of inquiry in 1994 also found that there was no evidence of "criminal activity," despite being unable to determine exactly what happened to the missing children.
The demands for further investigations grew, culminating in a violent protest by a militant rabbi, Uzi Meshulam, who, along with a number of followers, barricaded themselves in his home near Tel Aviv in 1994. The protesters opened fire on police demanding a new inquiry into the affair. Meshulam and some of his followers were jailed for their actions.
The third commission of inquiry, established in 1995 under the jurisdiction of Judge Yehuda Cohen, and later Judge Yaacov Kedmi, led to the 1996 authorization of the exhumation of 22 child skeletons, which had been buried in 10 graves. The remains were sent to Britain for DNA tests, although successful testing could only be carried out on one of the skeletons. Many of the Yemenite parents became skeptical of the testing procedure; and some claimed that the children's bones had been substituted in the graves with animal bones.