For decades now, Israel has been battling a grotesque narrative concerning the horrifying abduction and illegal adoption of Yemenite children from their families during the 1950s. The Yemenite Children’s Affair refers to the disappearance of babies and toddlers from Yemeni, Balkan and Mizrahi immigrant families in the 1950s, as was reported by the JPost.
Between June 1949 and September 1950 Israel brought 49,000 Yemenite Jews to the newly established Jewish state of in what was called Operation Magic Carpet. During its course, the overwhelming majority of Yemenite Jews – some 47,000 from Yemen, 1,500 from Aden, as well as 500 from Djibouti and Eritrea and some 2,000 Jews from Saudi Arabia– were airlifted to Israel. British and American transport planes made some 380 flights from Aden.
Stories have long circulated that the government of Israel orchestrated this reprehensible kidnapping plot in order for these Yemenite children to be raised by secular Jews of Ashkenazic origin who were loyal to Israel’s socialist parties in the early days of Israeli statehood. By having these children adopted by secular, politically liberal Jews, such a scenario would result in a new generation in Israel being raised without any kind of Jewish religious tradition. It was surmised that these children would eventually grow up and vote for the same socialist parties that their adopted parents belonged to.
The JPost reported that more than 1000 babies were extricated from their Yemenite families and put up for adoption. The families that adopted these Yemenite babies were alleged to have said that they were in a much better position to offer these children a better future than they would have had if their biological parents raised them.
Very often, the parents of these children were told that they had died of an illness. Parents were not shown the bodies of these allegedly deceased children nor were they given a death certificate or even shown the grave where the children were allegedly buried. No further information was given to these parents about the whereabouts of their children. This set of circumstances aroused the suspicions of parents who eventually came to believe that their children were kidnapped and adopted by Ashkenazic families both in Israel and in the diaspora, as was reported by the JPost.
Now, the health ministry of the Israeli government has penned a draft report in which (for the first time ever) they have claimed culpability in this reprehensible chapter of modern Israeli history. The draft report did not contain any new revelations, nor did it provide any new documentation or witness testimonies. It did, however, provide an official admission that the Health Ministry played a role in the kidnappings. Apparently, the report contained information that had been previously published and contained material that was previously collected.
In 2001 another state inquiry revealed that it was possible that state social workers may have put some children up for adoption, yet there was no evidence suggesting that these adoptions were part of a national conspiracy, as was reported by the JPost.
Meanwhile, current 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.
This is not the first time that the matter of the Yemenite Children’s Affair has been addressed. The JPost reported that after state inquiries were conducted in 1967, 1988 and 1995, the Israeli government concluded that illegal adoptions did not take place and that no nefarious plot to remove these babies from their parents existed. Based on the evidence they collected, they also concluded that children actually died as was told to their parents, however, some of the children were victims of bureaucratic abuse. Others were deemed to have expired due to gross medical negligence and it was learned that children were being buried prior to their parents being informed of their demise.
A proposal was made in February of this year by the Israeli government to put this issue to bed by offering a compensatory one-time payment to the families of these children for the suffering they endured. The plan was dependent on the recipient families not making any further monetary claims, as was reported by the JPost.
Opposition to this financial arrangement was voiced by the Union Sefaradi Mundial, a Jerusalem-based NGO devoted to the legacy of Sephardi Jews, as was reported by the JPost.
It is abundantly clear that the Israeli government is ashamed and perhaps wracked with palpable guilt about this kidnapping plot. Perhaps this is the reason that they have not addressed this issue head on in the last seven decades.
Yes, it is an ugly, despicable stain on the state of Israel that cannot be ameliorated by attempts to throw a few shekels at the families and descendants thereof of the missing children.
The facts are tragic but must become an integral part of the national conversation in Israel. As was previously stated, the Labor government that founded the state wanted to execute its political agenda and wanted desperately to consolidate and retain its power gravitas for decades to come.
As such, they resorted to a macabre type of social engineering. Being that the socialist, secular Jews founded the state, they planned to keep the national demographic status quo. They did not want religion, especially Orthodox Judaism to play any significant role in the shaping of the state. The groups that presented a threat to this plan included the Yemenite Jews and in general, Jews who had arrived in Israel from Arab lands.
Why is this so? The Yemenite Jews and other groups of Sephardic Jews had tenaciously clung to their religious faith for thousands of years while living in their Arab host countries. They cherished their “simanim” such as the strict observation of kashrut, Shabbat, tefillin, praying three times a day, learning Torah and keeping tight to their customs. They wore their payot with pride and the clothing that had distinguished them as Jews in their host countries.
In the early 1950s, they finally returned to their ancestral homeland of Israel and what happened thereafter is nothing more than a hideous and traumatic nightmare. They were stripped of their Judaism by the power elite in Israel. Sephardic Jews were told by the Histadrut which gave out jobs and housing that if they send their child to a yeshiva or religious day school then they will not be granted a job and housing would be circumscribed to them.
When such menacing tactics did not prove successful, then they decided that the only way to preserve secularism in Israel was to surreptitiously steal these Yemenite children from their parents and have them raised in secular and even anti-religious homes in Israel by Jews who felt nothing for their G-d and His holy Torah. The ruling class simply could not abide a future generation of Jews who were actually proud of their Jewish heritage. The ruling class wanted Israel to be a nation like all others, with no distinguishable differences.
Now the proverbial chicken is coming home to roost. No longer can Israel deny their culpability in this gruesome kidnapping and illegal adoption plot of Yemenite children.
Israel must address this, accept total and complete responsibility as well as acknowledge and publicize the political agenda of their forebearers. This is the only way in which Israel can repent for this heinous crime against segments of their own people.