Families of Missing Yemenite Children to Sue for Compensation

View of the classified documents related to the Yemenite Children Affair, at the Israel State Archives offices in Yerushalayim. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

With the revelation of tens of thousands of documents in the state archives relating to the fate of Yemenite children who went missing in the early days of the State of Israel, families of the missing children have begun filing demands for compensation from the state for their losses. In a letter to Finance Minister Moshe Kachlon, attorneys David and Chaya Mena said that they were representing over 1,000 families that demanded compensation. “What happened cannot be reversed, but we can demand compensation for these families,” the letter said.

The attorneys said that they would prefer to keep the matter out of court, if possible. Speaking to Yediot Acharonot, the attorneys said that they would wait to hear back from Kachlon about their demands, but that if he refused, “we will take the matter to court in a class-action lawsuit. Over 1,000 families deserve compensation. After they are compensated, we will demand that families be allowed to view closed files regarding the fate of their children. Only then will we be able to close this chapter in their lives.”

The state last December opened secret state protocols on cases of missing Yemenite children, with testimonies before various Knesset committees on hundreds of children who went missing in the early days of the state. Some of those testimonies contain lurid descriptions of medical experiments and forced kidnappings.

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 children 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. 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 their child’s grave had been “lost” or that their child had been buried in a mass grave and that it would be impossible to track down the remains.

According to various conspiracy theories over the years, the missing Yemenite children — an exact number has never been determined, but previous investigations have uncovered at least 1,060 cases, with as many as 3,430 files said to exist — were either farmed out to Ashkenazic families who could not have their own children, experimented on in hospitals, or even shipped to the United States for use as subjects in tests that measured the effects of radiation.

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.