Yemenite immigrants gather for a photo at Rosh Ha’ayin, in the early years of the state..
(photo credit: ILLUSTRATIVE: GPO FLICKR)
Legislation allowing for graves to be dug up as part of the new investigation into the fate of children who went missing from 1948 through 1970 was approved by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday.
Likud MK Nurit Koren – who proposed the bill and is chairwoman of a special Knesset committee on renewed efforts to find out what happened to the children, most of whom were Yemenite immigrants – pledged to do all she can to help families who lost their loved ones.
“We are working especially hard to uncover the truth about this horrible affair, through legislation and through the special committee’s work,” she said.
Koren’s bill would allow families who have reason to suspect that a grave belongs to a relative – based on one of the three state investigations into the affair and subject to court approval – to have the body exhumed in order to collect genetic material and test whether they were related.
In 2016, the state declassified its archival material on the topic, but the issue continues to generate interest.
Families found documents they never saw before, but many also found contradictory information, or details that are different from those listed on the graves in which they were told their relatives were interred. Some of the families claim children were systematically taken without their parents’ consent and given to Ashkenazi families.
Koren said that until the material was declassified many families did not even know the graves existed.
“The protocols revealed death certificates and locations of graves. But how can family members know if what was written is true, whether their sons and daughters are indeed buried in that place?” she asked. “Every day, my table is full of requests from families who want to know what happened to their loved ones.”
The bill was originally supposed to go to a Ministerial Committee for Legislation vote last week, but the Religious Affairs Committee waited for authorization from the Chief Rabbinate.
Koren pointed out that she had already attached appendices to the bill showing that former Sephardic chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef and prominent Yemenite translator of Maimonides Rabbi Yosef Kapach, both of whom are deceased, allowed for exhuming graves for this purpose.
“Any postponement of this bill directly harms the families,” Koren stated.
“Parents are dying without being able to know the fate of their loved ones, and therefore, we must speed up passing the bill. I will continue to act to pass it quickly and prevent unnecessary bureaucratic matters to delay things and hurt the families.”