Hanegbi: ‘Hundreds’ of Yemenite Babies Stolen in Early State Days

Jewish Yemenite immigrants seen seen arriving at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv on June 20, 2012. Photo by Moshe Shai/FLASH90 *** Local Caption *** עולים מתימן עולים מ תימן
Jewish Yemenite immigrants arriving at Ben Gurion Airport in 2012. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

From what he has gathered in his investigation so far, it appears that “hundreds” of children of Yemenite background were “stolen from their families,” government minister Tzachi Hanegbi said Motzoei Shabbos. In an interview with Channel Two, Hanegbi said that it was still not clear if the government knew about the kidnappings.

Hanegbi was appointed by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to investigate the scandal concerning many Yemenite families in the early days of the state. “Hundreds of children were stolen, on purpose,” said Hanegbi. “Did the official establishment know about it or not, or help organize it? We may never know. In recent weeks and months, however, Israelis have come to understand that this situation was not a hallucination.”

The scandal of the missing Yemenite children goes back to the early days of the state. In hundreds and even thousands of documented cases, Yemenite women who had given birth in state hospitals were told that their babies had died in childbirth. The bodies were never recovered, however, leading many people to suspect that their babies had not died, but had been kidnapped.

The purpose of the alleged kidnapping has been the subject of many conspiracy theories, from supplying wealthy Israelis of European background who could not have their own children with babies to raise from birth, to allegations that the children were used as subjects in radiation experiments conducted by Israel at the behest of the U.S. government. Some parents claimed that they attempted to disinter the remains of their children to have them reburied in family plots, but were either told that the location of the graves had been “lost,” or that their child had been buried in mass graves and that it would be impossible to track down their child’s remains.

Governments throughout the years have either ignored or denied the allegations, claiming that the children died because of polio and other childhood diseases rife during the 1950s. At least four investigative committees have discussed the matter, but all ended their work without drawing specific conclusions.

Activists believe that there is a great deal of information in government files that would shed light on the matter, and on the fate of specific missing children, but so far the government has refused to release the information.