Hundreds of people took part in a conference on the Yemenite Children Affair, which was held at the Knesset on Tuesday at the initiative of MK Nurit Koren (Likud), who heads the lobby for revealing the truth about the children`s fate.
Between 1948 and 1954, somewhere between 1,500 and 5,000 Sephardic children, mainly Yemenite toddlers, were reported missing, with many parents being told their children had died, sparking claims they were kidnapped and given to Ashkenazi couples. Three separate committees that investigated the affair ruled that most of the children had died of sickness and that a small minority had been put up for adoption.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent a video message to the conference, which was held in the presence of several MKs, including Uri Maklev (United Torah Judaism), Anat Berko, Amir Ohana, Avraham Neguise, Oren Hazan (Likud), Hilik Bar (Zionist Camp), Mordhay Yogev (United Torah Judaism), Yoav Ben-Tzur (Shas), Tamar Zandberg (Meretz) and Dov Khenin (Joint List). The conference featured performances by singers Tzion Golan, Daklon, Ahuva Ozeri, Peer Tasi and the group ”Revivo`s Project.” Singer Boaz Sharabi attended the conference but did not perform.
Representatives of the families addressed the conference, as did a number of senior academics.
MK Koren, who is of Yemenite descent, said ”the stories of the disappearances have accompanied me since childhood. As a mother and grandmother, it is unfathomable that a baby can be torn from his mother`s embrace. We are on the brink of a breakthrough, as the prime minister has agreed to promote the [declassification of the documents]. It is our moral duty to put an end to this injustice. I will not be silent until the truth is revealed.”
Koren was referring to secret documents reviewed by one of the investigative commissions that were tasked with clarifying the fate of the Yemenite children.
MK Bar said, ”As an Israeli, a Jew and a Zionist I want to know what happened to the children, why it happened and who gave the orders,” adding that he joins the call to declassify the documents.
MK Ben-Tzur spoke of how his relatives mourned the loss of their children until the day they died. ”This tale is not only a Yemenite one. A mother whose baby is snatched from her hands – this is a story that we must demand to know the truth about,” he told those on hand.
Rafi Shovali of the non-profit organization Achim Vekayamim said ”the campaign to cover up the affair is just as severe as the affair itself,” while Attorney Rami Tzuberi noted that one out of every eight Yemenite children who arrived in Israel as part of operation ”On Wings of Eagles” disappeared. He said, ”93 percent of the cases brought before the investigative commission relate to the passing [of Yemenite children], so where are they buried? And this begs the question: Can we believe the records of Chevrah Kadisha?”
Journalist Rina Matzliach vowed that she would continue to investigate the affair until the truth comes out.