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PHOTOS: Thousands protest in J'lm over disappeared Yemenite children

Thousands of Israelis took to Jerusalem’s streets on Wednesday evening to demand answers over the disappearance of Yemenite, Mizrahi and Balkan babies in the early years of the state. 

By Yael Marom, Eli Bitan and Haggai Matar

Israelis protest over the Yemenite children affair, Jerusalem, June 21, 2017. (Activestills.org)

Israelis protest over the Yemenite children affair, Jerusalem, June 21, 2017. (Activestills.org)

Thousands of people gathered in Jerusalem on Wednesday evening in order to protest the kidnapping of Yemenite, Mizrahi and Balkan babies in the early years of the state. The demonstration was organized by Amram, an NGO dedicated to researching and exposing the affair, and called for recognition of the state’s crimes as well as justice for the affected families.

Israelis protest over the Yemenite children affair, Jerusalem, June 21, 2017. (Activestills.org)

Israelis protest over the Yemenite children affair, Jerusalem, June 21, 2017. (Activestills.org)

Hundreds of members of families who lost their children were among the protesters, who held signs that read, “We won’t forget or forgive,” “Justice for the families of Yemenite, Mizrahi and Balkan babies,” and others with photographs of the kidnapped babies, and members of the families concerned who had passed away.

Israelis protest over the Yemenite children affair, Jerusalem, June 21, 2017. (Activestills.org)

Israelis protest over the Yemenite children affair, Jerusalem, June 21, 2017. (Activestills.org)

There were no formal political speeches at the protest, but stages were set up on every street corner, from which tearful family members told their stories after years of silence and incredulity. 

Amram’s Tom Mehager called it “a historic demonstration. Thousands came from across the country and echoed the cry over where the children are. The country is corrupt. The State of Israel must provide answers to the families of the kidnapped children, which the families emphatically demanded today.”

Israelis protest over the Yemenite children affair, Jerusalem, June 21, 2017. (Activestills.org)

Israelis protest over the Yemenite children affair, Jerusalem, June 21, 2017. (Activestills.org)

Ze’ev, who had traveled south to Jerusalem from near Hadera, said: “Two of my uncle’s children were kidnapped, and to this day we don’t know what happened to them. One disappeared two weeks after they got to Israel; a few months later, his daughter wasn’t feeling well and then disappeared.

“The Yemenite community is too quiet, too nice, too gentle. Our parents’ innocence was exploited… The families [must be] reunited. Forget money, we just want to know what happened to the children and to see them again,” Ze’ev added. “What do you say to a mother whose child was taken 70 years ago?”

Israelis protest over the Yemenite children affair, Jerusalem, June 21, 2017. (Activestills.org)

Israelis protest over the Yemenite children affair, Jerusalem, June 21, 2017. (Activestills.org)

One of the speakers was Tsvia Adani, the daughter of Saadia and Yehuda Levi, whose sister was taken at the age of nine months. She recounted how her parents’ child had been taken by force, despite their battling to prevent it.

Israelis protest over the Yemenite children affair, Jerusalem, June 21, 2017. (Activestills.org)

Israelis protest over the Yemenite children affair, Jerusalem, June 21, 2017. (Activestills.org)

Adani also spoke of how many Knesset members and government ministers are now calling for recognition of the kidnapping affair and for the state to take responsibility, but stressed that concrete action by the justice minister was needed.

Sima-Simcha and her sister Shoshana said that their sister had been kidnapped in the 1950s, after their parents had arrived in Israel from Egypt. They spoke of the girl with red hair and blue eyes for whom they’d been searching for 60 years, of a baby brother who had disappeared from the hospital he’d been taken to when he wasn’t feeling well, of the mother who’d been told, “go home, you’ll have more children, it’s not that bad,” after being denied the chance to see the body.

Israelis protest over the Yemenite children affair, Jerusalem, June 21, 2017. (Activestills.org)

Israelis protest over the Yemenite children affair, Jerusalem, June 21, 2017. (Activestills.org)

Shoshana burst into tears as she talked about the little sister she’d had, about her mother’s face when she returned home from the hospital empty-handed, about her parents who never got over the kidnapping, and about the army draft orders that had arrived for her missing sister. After 62 years, the state still behaves as if her sister is with her family.

The sisters said their only hope was that the adopted children will hear their call, and return. “We just want to know that they’re still alive,” one said.

This post was originally published in Hebrew on Local Call. 

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    1. Ben

      This is incredibly powerful stuff. These were extremely grave crimes. The only way you could do this to people is if you hold them in contempt and utterly dehumanize them. And the people who did this were themselves refugees from the worst dehumanization imaginable. So, right wingers, are you still skeptical about the need for vigilant and universal defense of human rights?
      These appalling stories say a lot about the cultural attitudes then of the incoming European Jews towards non-Western people, Jewish and Arab. In a few words: cold contempt and dehumanization of the other, allowing very grave crimes–and, with this very weird racial twist to it:
      “These people are low enough that we can steal their children from them, they’ll get over it, they’re not like us; but at the same time they’re Jewish enough for us, Jewish enough to accept their babies as good enough for us to take for ourselves.” How about that?
      Nowadays no one thinks stealing anyone’s child is acceptable but it seems it remains acceptable for Israeli Jews to treat Arab and Black persons of these regions with something like this same contemptuous, dehumanizing attitude. In this sense, the Arabs of Palestine are treated by today’s Israelis like the Yemeni Jews were treated by yesterday’s Israelis, but with even less status and less human rights accorded them than that.

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