Health Ministry helped Israel kidnap Yemenite children in 1950s - report

It has become an accepted narrative that upward of 1,000 babies were taken from their families and put up for adoption.

Yemenite immigrants gather for a photo at Rosh Ha’ayin, in the early years of the state. (photo credit: ILLUSTRATIVE: GPO FLICKR)
Yemenite immigrants gather for a photo at Rosh Ha’ayin, in the early years of the state.
(photo credit: ILLUSTRATIVE: GPO FLICKR)

A drafted Health Ministry report details the Israeli healthcare system's role in the infamous abduction of Yemenite children from families in the 1950s, according to Haaretz

According to the report, the ministry is "preventing" the publication of the draft.

This drafted report was allegedly penned by outgoing Health Ministry Deputy Director-General Prof. Itamar Grotto as well as racism prevention official Dr. Shlomit Avni. It did not give new testimonies or documents, and is simply a review of already published and collected material. However, it was the first admission by an Israeli ministry in an official document depicting involvement in the scandal, according to Haaretz.

In response to the leaked draft, the Health Ministry stressed that the report is only a draft and not final. Further, the ministry said that completion of this report was delayed by numerous factors, such as being forced to shift focus on battling COVID-19 and the departure of those involved in the report from the ministry.

The ministry stated that Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz and Director-General Prof. Nachman Ash have issued a directive for a full review and examination of the report so it can be fully published without delay.

YEMENITE JEWS near their tents in Israel in 1949. (credit: REUTERS)YEMENITE JEWS near their tents in Israel in 1949. (credit: REUTERS)

The Yemenite Children’s Affair refers to the disappearance of babies and toddlers from Yemeni, Balkan and Mizrahi immigrant families in the 1950s.

It has become an accepted narrative that upward of 1,000 babies were taken from their families and put up for adoption, usually by established Ashkenazi families that were said to offer the children a better future.

In many cases, the families were told their child had died, even though they didn’t see the body or a place of burial and or receive a death certificate. Some came to believe the children were, in fact, kidnapped and adopted by Ashkenazi families, both in Israel and abroad.

After state inquiries in 1967, 1988 and 1995, the Israeli government concluded that there was no illicit adoption plot and that in the majority of cases, children really did die, though some were victims of gross medical negligence and bureaucratic abuses – including children being buried before the parents were informed.

Another inquiry, in 2001, said it was possible that individual social workers put some children up for adoption, but not as part of a national conspiracy. In 2016, then-Likud MK Nurit Koren pushed for the establishment of the Knesset Special Committee on the Affair of the Disappearance of Yemenite, Mizrahi and Balkan Children, which increased public awareness.

In February, a plan was proposed by the government to offer a one-time payment in compensation for the "suffering" of the families, but it is dependent on them not making further claims.

This has led some to be opposed to the plan, such as the Union Sefaradi Mundial, a Jerusalem-based NGO devoted to the legacy of Sephardi Jews.

“Compensation by itself is not enough. The government must accept responsibility," the NGO said at the time. "The State of Israel has to [own up to] these events of children who went missing.”