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Hanukkah Parodies and Kidnappings: Letters to the Editor

Comments from our readers on Adele and the disappeared Yemenite babies

December 04, 2015

Editor’s Note: On Fridays we publish a selection of letters our readers have sent in regarding articles and podcasts published the week prior on Tablet.

I don’t know who Adele is!

I do know why intelligent people who happen to be Jewish by birth, but not educated Jewishly, may be switched off by the utter mindlessness of this kind of ‘parody.’ If that’s how Judaism is branded, who would wish to be associated with it, even tenuously??

The ludicrous ‘Purim costume‘ caricature of the male character, his mindless comments, and the ambiguous tenor of its subtext, are likely to push anyone as far as possible away from the Chanukah message.

Zmira Cohen, Cape Town, South Africa

On Eetta Prince-Gibson’s “The Disappeared Yemenite Babies”:

Over 65 years ago Israel captured the imagination of the world with one of its extraordinary feats: Operation “On Wings of Eagles,” it brought 48,000 Yemenite Jews to the Holy Land, in 519 flights. This appeared to be a page right out of the Torah. “You Shall Return On the Wings of Eagles.”

Upon arriving in Israel from Yemen, hundreds of immigrant families suffered a loss of one or more children under suspicious circumstances. These families relate similar stories: a child was brought to the sanitary children’s house where they slept in the Maabara (a transit camp.) The mothers went there to breast feed their children. After a period of time, the family was informed that the child had died; the family was never given a death certificate for the child, nor was the family shown a body or a grave.

Eighteen years later, the families whose children had supposedly “died” received letters from the Defense Ministry. Their children were told to appear for induction into the Army. This occurred to so many families that three ‘official’ investigations were conducted into these missing children. They were to report on some 650 children who were kidnapped during this period. Others have estimated that the number of these children is in the thousands–and most of them were of Yemenite nationality.

This article, The Disappeared Yemenite Babies, states “there is no good evidence for the theory of the kidnappings,” which communicates a great disservice to the Yemenite families who have lost children through kidnappings. The following are a number of example that I have also published in my memoir.

Abraham Ovadia, the official in charge of camp Aleph in Rosh Haayin has volunteered to give his testimony. In a lengthy statement as described in my book, he said, “I am 86 years old and do not want to die without admitting the truth. The kidnappings were done outside the campsite on the way from the airport to the camp. Women arrived without their babies. I knew these kidnappings were organized and I knew that everything was not done by a single man, but by a group involved with the Jewish Agency.”

Avigdor Peer, the former assistant director of the Division for Aid to Immigrants of the Ministry of Social Welfare, broke 32 years of silence by informing the Knesset Interior Committee on November 27, 1985, that “on his watch, tens of hundreds of babies were taken from baby shelters in absorption camps. They were also taken from hospitals and clinics and given to four women’s organizations: Working Mothers (MaAmat) of Mapai (WMO), Aguda Women, Amuna Women (NRP), and the General Zionist Women’s Organization. The WMO being the largest organization received the greatest number of children according to party distribution.” In fact, many babies were sent from children’s quarters to hospitals accompanied by nurses for their inoculations and were never returned to their parents.

And consider this, from page 76 of the book A People is Absorbed by Dr. Abraham Sternberg (1973): “The late Dr. Yosef Israeli who was in charge of the Southern District for Medical Services of new Immigrants found the solution. He transferred tens of hundreds of children from the hospital to the World Zionist Organization’s home in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Tsfat.”

Yehudit Dorani, a nurse in camp Ein Shemer, said on August 9, 1995: “Babies in the children’s quarters were kidnapped by foreign women who arrived claiming to check the hearing, sight, and intelligence of the babies. Those that scored the highest, disappeared.” For foreigners, that of course required the cooperation of the Department of Immigration.

To kidnap over a thousand Yemenites at will is to dehumanize a segment of Israel’s countrymen. Were not the authorities sensitive to the pain of the parents? Was it some perverted Zionist ideology that gave them the right to steal babies from their parents, clinics and hospitals? The article states claims there was ‘confusion in those days.’ But there were professional doctors, nurses, sanitary children’s quarters and records of every tent, blanket, beds, dishes and utensils. Could they lose a human being so easily?

What is so disappointing is that the leaders of Israel in those early days did not understand that the Yemenite Jews came to Israel out of their strong feeling for their return to Zion. This was their redemption. They knew they were descendants of the ancient Israelites and were returning from where they originated. No other Jewish community immigrated with such messianic Zionist fervor as the Yemenites.

Although three commissions of inquiry had government approval, the Israeli government never gave the investigators adequate authority to solve this travesty of justice. Athough the Kedma Committee was empowered to subpoena records and compel testimony under penalty of perjury, they never used it, even though I personally gave them names. The government’s lack of progress, coupled with alleged threats by the Israeli secret police against reporters, myself and others who had taken up the cause of these suffering families, led many in Israel to believe that the government was covering up the fate of these children to conceal its own involvement in their disappearance.

What’s more, is that the article quotes TV personality Yaron Landon, who broadcast that “not one of the ostensibly kidnapped children searched for their biological parent.”

Then, there’s the most celebrated kidnapped person who became a household name, Tzila Levine, who had been looking for her biological parents for years. Early in 1996 the Cohen committee (later renamed the Kedma), called me in New York (I had been the president of the Yemenite Jewish Federation), asking for my help in finding kidnapped Yemenites from Israel in the U.S. To make a long story short, I found Tzila Levine and, through DNA, brought her together with her biological mother. For 49 years they had been apart. Tzila’s mother, Margalit Omessi, said her daughter was kidnapped from Rosh HaAyin children’s quarters. Her Polish adoptive parents said they acquired Tzila from the private home of a pediatrician who worked at Rambam Hospital in Haifa.

When one realizes the enormity of this operation, it is obvious that it had to have been officially organized and coordinated. I cannot prove who the perpetrators were, because the Ministry of Interior and the government are protecting them through sham investigations and permanently locked files. (I have collected over one hundred pounds of evidence, hours of video tapes, and documents, about Yalde Teman (Yemenite Children) and donated all of these for safekeeping to the Jerusalem repository of the former President of Israel at the Ben Zvi Institute for Middle East Studies. It is open to all scholars for further examination.

What more proof does the world need that there was a systematic program under the responsibility of the government, which kidnapped Yemenite babies and were given or sold to Ashkenazi Holocaust Survivors through illegal adoption, all without their birth parents’ permission?

Is it any wonder why over a thousand Yemenite families feel that their redemption to Zion was a falsehood? The cover-up of the Israeli government protecting the criminals responsible for destroying Yemenite families will forever be a cancer that has destroyed any gratitude Yemenites have for their immigration. As long as the cover up continues, never can Israel be a “Light Unto the Nations.”

— Sampson Giat, Forest Hills, New York, author of My Memoir As An Activist For Israel And Yemenite Jews