Yemenite family reunited decades after ‘disappearance’ of baby

Adopted sister always believed she had been kidnapped.

Yemenite Jews in Ma'abarot (Absorption Camp) Rosh Ha-Ayin in 1949 (photo credit: ISRAELI GOVERNMENT'S NATIONAL PHOTO COLLECTION/PUB)
Yemenite Jews in Ma'abarot (Absorption Camp) Rosh Ha-Ayin in 1949
A woman who for years believed that she was one of the children kidnapped in the 1950s Yemenite Children Affair finally met her biological sisters for the first time after DNA tests revealed that they were family.
The reunion took place on Wednesday, when Varda Fox, 67, met her two sisters, three uncles and aunts, and nieces and nephews.
The meeting took place in Or Yehuda at the office of MyHeritage, the genealogy company that made the reunification possible through its initiative to try to help reunify families that were split up during the affair. The start-up company offers free DNA testing to people in Israel and abroad, both to those whose children disappeared and to those who were adopted and are interested in discovering their biological origins.
Fox was one of the first people to be tested a year and a half ago at an event to launch the genetic database.
Fox’s biological younger sister, Ofra Mazor, 62, took a DNA test six months ago at an event she attended about the Yemenite Children Affair, organized by MK Nurit Koren who heads the Knesset Caucus on Yemenite Children.
Mazor told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday that she knew all her life about her missing sister. “Mother would tell us about it,” she said over the phone. Mazor’s aunt, who was by her side during the conversation, added that her sister, the reunited women’s mother – who passed away 10 years ago – used to cry to her about the child she had lost up until the very end of her life.
Fox’s adopted parents told her that she had been adopted from a Women’s International Zionist Organization orphanage, but she had felt for years that she had been kidnapped from her biological parents in the Yemenite Children Affair.
The affair concerns the mysterious disappearance of hundreds of babies and toddlers of Mizrahi descent, mainly from Yemen, during the early days after the establishment of the state, between 1948 and 1954.
In the vast majority of cases, parents were told in the hospital that their newborn baby had died, though they never received any official confirmation.
Over the years, families have claimed that their children were in fact systematically kidnapped and given away or sold to Ashkenazi families without the consent of the biological families.
Mazor says that her father was in the army when her older sister Varda was born, and her mother had to leave the hospital to tell him the news and bring him to meet his daughter.
“They came back and they couldn’t find the girl. They were looking for the girl and the doctors told them to go away, that there was no child there,” Mazor relates.
The meeting between Mazor and Fox was an emotional one.
“I cried immediately – about the time that we missed and that my mother missed,” Mazor told the Post.
“I grew up in a good environment with parents who raised me well, but it’s a terrible disaster to take children from their parents. It’s something that hurt me a lot that I did not have parents,” the Mako news portal quoted Fox as saying. “It was hard for me without a mother and father who you know are yours, I wanted to know who they were.”
Fox asked to see pictures of her parents, and Mazor obliged. “I told her she had missed out on our parents,” she says regretfully.
“Life goes on as usual but now we can call each other, and we will drink coffee together, like sisters. From my perspective this is bingo – this is my sister and now we can start,” Mazor added.