Knesset holds event to raise awareness for Yemenite Children Affair

The Knesset hosted a conference in awareness of the Yemenite Children Affair for the first time ever, and another event will be hosted by Herzog.

Israelis protest as they mark a memorial and awareness day of the Yemenite Children Affair in Jerusalem on July 31, 2019. (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
Israelis protest as they mark a memorial and awareness day of the Yemenite Children Affair in Jerusalem on July 31, 2019.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

For the first time, the Knesset marked a day of awareness on Monday for the Yemenite Children Affair that took place between 1948 and 1954 with a conference in honor of the children,

The Yemenite Children Affair was a process in which the children of many Yemenite olim disappeared in the first few years after the establishment of Israel. When they arrived, many of the children were very sick and were taken to hospitals, and the linguistic difficulties and disorganized system meant that contact was cut between the children in hospital and their families, and the hospital staff couldn't notify the families of their children's conditions.

Most of the children who went missing died of their illnesses and were buried without notifying their families, but there were suspicions that some of the children were possibly illegally taken from the hospital and adopted without their family's knowledge.

The conference program

The Knesset's conference was planned at the initiative of MKs Keren Barak, Naama Lazimi, Keti Shitrit and Gila Gamliel and was attended by 350 participants including families of missing children.

Israelis protest as they mark a memorial and awareness day of the Yemenite Children Affair in Jerusalem on July 31, 2019. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)Israelis protest as they mark a memorial and awareness day of the Yemenite Children Affair in Jerusalem on July 31, 2019. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

The conference program included speeches by Knesset Chairman Mickey Levy and opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, a lecture by Dr. Daniel de Malach, a panel of MKs and a musical performance.

Another event in honor of the missing children was planned to take place at the residence of President Isaac Herzog on Tuesday.

"For more than a year, I've been fighting to raise awareness for the Yemenite Children Affair in the Knesset plenum, committees, the president's residence and in this event," said Barak. "My conclusion is that we must set up a budgeted national authority that will once and for all heal this deep and bleeding wound in Israeli society.

"70 years have passed and whoever thinks the affair will disappear, is very wrong. The affair is growing. Today it's not just the children, it's the grandchildren and the great-grandchildren, and the feeling of injustice for the families will only get worse over the coming years. Therefore, not only for the families but for all of us, we have to open everything - all the archives and all the information that exists in order to teach it and take responsibility. Only at the end of that process will we be able to end the story.

"I am committing to never let go of this affair until it gets the appropriate ending. I am committing to continue fighting for this important goal until everything that needs to be fixed is fixed."

MK Keren Barak

"This conference is a constitutive event in the Knesset," said Lazimi. "This nation is important, and we have a duty to correct things for the families of the missing children - families who came to Israel out of real Zionism. Today, we women from the coalition and the opposition made a meaningful step toward recognition, justice and healing."

"Aside from the recognition of the awful actions that were taken, I believe that Israel must ensure compensation for the families who live with the knowledge that their lives could have been different," said Gamliel.