Israel Resource Review 2nd June, 1998

    The Case of the Missing Children by Yechiel A. Mann

    The Case of the Missing Children
    Discovering the Fate of Thousands of Jewish Children Who Disappeared in Israel Between 1948 and 1954
    by Yechiel A. Mann
    Research Associate of Israel Resource News Agency

    Part One

    ESHHAR, December 15, 1997: Monday, October 13, 1997, was a suspenseful day at Beit Agron, the Government press center in Jerusalem, where the official Government committee investigating the disappearance of Yemenite and other Jewish children in the years 1948-1954 conducts weekly hearings each Monday.

    Mrs. Sarah Leicht was the first person to testify. She worked as a nurse at a WIZO (Women's International Zionist Organization) child-care center in Tev Aviv in 1950. There, Sarah received on-the-job training as a nurse while caring for children each day from the morning until 2-3 P.M. The WIZO center was called "The Institute for Care of Mother and Child." Mrs. Leicht said that the Institute was, in fact, an adoption center. She stated that the director of the Institute was Mrs. Ravina Kish, while the assistant director was a Mrs. Barbash. The staff doctor was a Mrs. Shapira.

    The children they took care of at the Institute were usually between the ages of one day and 2 years. After they reached the age of two, the children were moved into an infant care center, run by a Mrs. Releh.

    Mrs. Leicht showed the Government committee a photo of herself and one of the children for whom she cared. She especially remembers this child, named Dervish, as she loved him very much. She gave the committee a copy of the photo.

    After her hearing I asked Mrs. Leicht to show me the original photo. I examined this and other photos of the WIZO Institute. It appeared to me that this "institute" was one of many that took stolen children, sold them, and classified the transactions as "adoption."

    Mrs. Leicht recalled the day when Dervish was given to a Polish Jewish family from Jaffa. The caretakers and nurses at the Institute were told not to attempt any contact with Dervish or his new parents, in case they saw them in the streets, as Dervish was adopted by a family in Jaffa, a short distance away. Mrs. Leicht searched for Dervish among the babies she saw on the streets, but she never saw him again.

    Mrs. Leicht was asked if she recalled any babies dying during their stay in the Wizo Institute. She said "no", even though she did recall an isolated case where they found a one day old baby in a dumpster. This was extremely unusual, she said, as she remembered the care for the babies at the Institute as being wonderful and warm.

    Mr. Dachbash Salah and his family, of Yeminite origin, were the next witnesses to testify. Their daughter Zarah was taken from them in the Rosh HaAyin immigrant camp. Mr. Dachbash recalled that their entire family was taken directly from the plane to the Rosh HaAyin camp. Two weeks after they arrived at the camp, Zarah was separated from the family and taken to a "baby house" inside the camp. Zarah was two years old at the time and had recently stopped breast feeding.

    The Salah family loved Zarah. They visited her every day in the "baby house" for at least two weeks. One day the Salahs were invited to Dachbash's aunt in Ramat Gan for the weekend. The aunt and her family had already been in Israel for some time before Dachbash arrived from Yemen.

    When Dachbash and his family returned to the immigrant camp from their visit to Ramat Gan they went to visit Zarah at the "baby house," where they were told she had died.

    Dachbash said that he asked the "baby house" staff when Zarah died, and they told him that she died on Friday. He had seen his daughter on Friday morning, and she seemed fine. He asked them what was the precise cause and time of Zarah's death. The staff had no answer for him.

    Dachbash has searched in vain for Zarah's grave for almost 50 years, with no results. Zarah's I.D. number was given in the committee - 1054761. Zarah was the third child in the family.

    Dachbash's oldest daughter, Leah, also testified. She was 9 or 10 years old when Zarah was taken from them. Leah said that they lived in a tent, while Zarah was taken to a building which served as the infant center. She said that they visited Zarah every day, even on the Friday when she was taken from them. Leah remembered seeing Zarah that morning, healthy and happy. Lead was sure that Zarah was healthy and looked good.

    Mrs. Yehudit Veintrop, case number 68/97, was the third person to testify. Mrs. Veintrop came to Israel from Poland, and her husband came from Bulgaria. On December 1, 1951, their son Eliezer was born. When he was eight days old, Eliezer was circumcised. A few days later he developed a minor cough. The Veintrops called a doctor to look at Eliezer. The doctor told them that Eliezer was completely healthy.

    Afterwards, another doctor came to look at Eliezer, and told the Veintrops that he must be taken to a hospital. Eliezer was taken to Hadassah Hospital. When Mr. Veintrop went to see Eliezer the next day, he was told that Eliezer had died.

    Mrs. Veintrop husband was the fourth person to testify. He remembered that Elizer was placed in the children's ward of Hadassah Hospital on Balfour St. When Mr. Veintrop came to see Eliezer the next day, a nurse told him that Eliezer had died and would be buried the next day in the Givat Shaul cemetary. Mr. Veintrop asked to see Eliezer's body on the spot, but the nurse told him that there was nothing to see.

    The next day, Mr. Veintrop went to the Givat Shaul cemetary and asked to see Eliezer's grave. He was told that according to Jewish law a child under the age of 30 days is not buried individually. Eliezer was 21 days old when he "died." Mr. Veintrop said that he went to the Hospital the day before at 10 A.M., when he was told Eliezer was dead. Mr. Veintrop said that Eliezer only had a cold. At no point did the Veintrops receive a death certificate or any documentation about Eliezer.

    Rabbi Menachem Porush, case number 102/97 was the fifth person to testify. During the period when the children disappeared, Rabbi Porush was Secretary of the Agudat Israel Party. Agudat Israel held the Welfare Ministry portfolio in the Ben-Gurion government.

    Rabbi Porush said that he discussed the disappearance of the children with Ben-Gurion. Ben Gurion said that he knew nothing about this and asked Porush for proof.

    At this point in Rabbi Porush's testimony, a man attending the Government committee hearing yelled at Rabbi Porush, demanding that he reveal all that he knows. A guard asked the man to leave the hearing room. At this point the man became even more furious, and yelled at the guard, telling the guard that he was a police officer and knew his job better than did the guard. The argument between the man and the guard became violent when the guard tried to forcibly remove the man from the hearing room. Other guards came to assist in evicting this man and the entire press contingent followed them out of the hearing room. I later found out that this man was Yitzhak Kerem, who was a cop, ranked superintendent, and quit the force when he "learned of the corruption in the system". Kerem has since been working on

    Rabbi Porush resumed testifying before the committee. The committee chairman , retired Supreme Court Judge Yehuda Cohen, criticised Rabbi Porush for failing to provide enough specific facts. Judge Cohen said that he had hoped Rabbi Porush would provide some details about the case, and that he was disappointed when Rabbi Porush failed to do so.

    Another observer, Mr. Yinon Gispan, also began to yell at the committee, claiming that they were engaged in a coverup. Mr. Gispan angrily left the hearing room, and called upon everyone who agreed with him to leave as well. Half of the audience got up and walked out with Mr. Gispan, with most of the media following them as well.

    As Rabbi Porush continued his testimony, it was alleged that Arutz 2 reporter Matti Cohen had said that Rabbi Porush gave him names of people involved in the case, off the record, but that Rabbi Porush was afraid to reveal the names of the people publicly. As discussion on this continued, a woman in the audience stood up and said calmly, "Matti Cohen is right here. Why argue about it when you can just ask Matti Cohen?"

    A guard removed this woman from the hearing room as well. She did not put up a struggle. Less than a minute later, the committee called upon Matti Cohen to testified. Mr. Cohen said that he had blown Rabbi Porush's words out of proportion. He claimed that Rabbi Porush had only said that some of the people in positions of power at the time were still alive and that the committee should also call them to testify, in case these people have information that the committee is not yet aware of.

    Matti Cohen told the committee that he would give them a tape recording of his entire 19 minutes' discussion with Rabbi Porush following the hearing.

    The discussion in question between Matti Cohen and Rabbi took place during a press conference given by "Mishkan Ohalim," Yeminite Rabbi Uzi Meshulam's organization, at the Central Hotel in Jerusalem, owned by former Agudat Israel Knesset member Avraham Shapira. Most of the mainstream Israeli media attended the press conference, as well as did Knesset Members Rabbi Benny Elon (Moledet) and Eliezer "Mudi" Zandberg (Tsomet).

    Also present was Rabbi Yaakov Silvani of "Mishkan Ohalim." Rabbi Silvani noted a dozen individual cases where lost children found their families. In each case, the Government committee sent the children and families a "case closed" letter without revealing this to the press or public. One cased involved a man named Uri Vachtel, who addressed the press conference by phone from abroad. Vachtel was scheduled to visit Israel after Succot.

    Mr. Vachtel was born Paltiel Ben-Tov in the Ein-Shemer Wizo Institute. Paltiel was stolen from his parents, renamed "Uri," and given for adoption by the Wizo institute to the Vachtel family. Uri was moved to the Wizo Institute from the Atlit immigration camp, where his parents were living at the time. Another boy named Chaim was also moved with him from the Atlit camp to the WIZO Instiute.

    Uri said he would undergo D.N.A. tests in the United States before coming to Israel. The first lawyer to deal with the Vachtel case was Yaakov Harrari.

    Also brought up at the press conference was the issue of blank birth and death certificates that had been signed by the Interior Ministry. The certificates were found with the assistance of Yehudit Hivner, a retired high-ranking Interior Ministry official.

    An article about the blank birth and death certificates appeared in the June 13, 1996 edition of "Yediot Acharonot." In the article, "Hivner was asked to explain how, after the census of 1962, the Interior Ministry sent hundreds of letters to the families of the missing Yemenite children, telling them that their dear ones had 'left the country.' Brigadier General David Maimon even presented to her two conflicting certificates, one of them saying that a child named Joseph Cohen died on November 26, 1951, and the second, that the same child left Israel in 1962."

    There are many instances where certificates contradict one another. I have personally reviewed hundreds of the certificates myself. Hivner was only one of several people asked about these contradictions. Their response was uniformly the same.

    ". . . In many cases, the names of the biological parents of children who were adopted in the '50s weren't even known. This fact comes from the terrible mess the records of children, who were taken to hospitals, were in. When the children recovered , their identity was not known, and so there was no possibility to return them to their parents."

    I ask my readers to note this claim that there was 'confusion in the documentation.' It is a key argument that forms an essential part of the official coverup on this question. Keep it in mind, for we will return to this point as our investigation continues.

    I will give Mrs. Hivner credit for one revealing admission, as recorded in the Yediot Aharonot article. "These children were taken to institutes and kibbutzim, and many were given out to adoption. Hivner pointed out that the adopting parents 'not only changed the childrens' names, but also their I.D. numbers, so they would not be able to be traced ".

    The Missing Children
    Part Two

    ESHHAR, February 15, 1997, Root & Branch: Although the issue of the missing Yemenite and other Jewish children is well known in Israel, I understand that it is virtually unknown abroad.

    This issue involves thousands of children who were taken, sometimes forcably, from their biological parents while in hospitals or childcare homes, then sold both in Israel and abroad for substantial sums (that varied from case to case), or given out for adoption, while their parents were told that the children had died. In most cases, when the parents asked about the cause of death or requested a death certificate or other documentation confirming the death of their children, they were ignored and their requests went unanswered.

    They never saw a body. In most cases, not even a burial spot was seen. In a few cases, however, graves were shown to the families. Some of those graves, later on, were dug up by parents who did not believe that their beloved, healthy child truly died overnight. The graves were found empty.

    These activities were carried out by doctors, nurses, social workers and other members of the Israeli Establishment at that time. I have heard many "moral" justifications given for taking these children from their parents. I do not believe any are legitimate. It seems to me that the real reason for the kidnapping of the children was money. People in positions of power at the time that the State of Israel was established profited from the abduction and sale of children from poor immigrant families.

    This practice continued on at least into the early 1960s. Some say that it still continues, although on a much smaller scale.

    One common misconception is that these abuses were practiced against Yemenite Jews alone. While researching this issue I have concluded that the victims also included immigrant Jews from Tunis, Spain, Morocco, Lybia, Iraq, Iran, and Belgium, to name a few countries. In most cases, the immigrants came from Middle Eastern countries.

    The number of kidnapped children has been estimated at around 2,400 by the official investigating committee. When Rabbi Uzi Meshullam was still collecting evidence, he gathered the names of 4,500 children. I believe that the real number is much larger than that. I have found that many families never reported the disappearance of a child. I estimate that approximately 10,000 children were kidnapped and sold, and I would not be surprised if the real number is higher.

    In future installments, I will present detailed, individual cases, including descriptions of some of those involved in perpetrating this crime.

    The Missing Children
    Part Three:
    The Empty Graves

    ESHHAR, March 30, 1998, Root & Branch: Most parents whose children were kidnapped by hospital staff and infant care workers were told that their children died (with no death certificate or other proof of death given) and were never shown graves. This part of my series deals with those parents who were shown graves.

    Parents of kidnapped children made many attempts to check the "graves" of their "dead" children. The "Mishkan Ohalim" organization filmed a secret operation it conducted on August 13, 1997, where members dug up four of these "graves" at the Kiryat Shaul Cemetary. The film was broadcast a week later on Channel One News.

    The film shows the "graves" as they are being dug up. In each case the "grave" is empty. The "graves" had allegedly contained the remains of four children: Ruti Babu, Ruti Cohen, Moshe Mishraki and Reuven Refaelov.

    The parents of these children and "Mishkan Ohalim" representatives came to the Kiryat Shaul Cemetery together with cemetary manager Avraham Finkelstein and with Rabbi Yaakov Rujah, district religious adviser on burial matters.

    I interviewed one of the "Mishkan Ohalim" representatives who was present when the "graves" were opened. He told me that they went to extreme lengths, including the use of a strainer, to search for bones. This was shown on the film. No bones were found.

    Mrs. Ruti Refaelov, whose son Reuven was allegedly buried at the cemetary, states on the film: "The child isn't here, there's just sand, and nothing more."

    In each case the stories were identical. Parents were told that their children had been sick and had died.

    The issue was reported on Israel Radio as follows:

    "Four families of Yemenite origin have discovered that the graves in which their babies were supposedly buried forty years ago are empty. Israel TV's Channel 1 filmed the opening of the graves at the Kiryat Shaul Cemetery and broadcast it last night. Yemenite activists have been claiming for years that hundreds of babies who were declared dead were actually put up for adoption. The graves were opened last Wednesday as part of the official investigation. A rabbi and family members were present. A wooden sign over the graves bore the names Ruti Babu, Ruti Cohen, Reuven Refaelov and Moshe Mishraki. A spokesman for the families said this was proof of a planned fraud in which funerals were staged and evidence falsified. Public Security Minister Avigdor Kahalani has expressed his shock at the discovery of the empty graves. Kahalani is of Yemenite origin. He said that he shared the families' grief and noted that families had feared all along that their children had disappeared and not died as they were told. He said he was confident that the commission investigating the missing children would bring the truth to light." (Kol Israel August 17, 1997).

    This Israel State Radio report falsely stated that all the children were Yemenite. The Cohen family comes from Iraq. The State Radio report also falsely stated that Israel TV's Channel 1 filmed the opening of the graves.The film was made by the "Mishkan Ohalim" organization.

    Public Security Minister Kahalani has since done nothing to advance inquiries into this case. Regarding Kahalani's remarks about his confidence in the government commission, it was the third government commission established to investigate this matter, and it was closed down at the end of December, 1997. The commission chairman was retired Israeli Supreme Court Judge Yehuda Cohen. The other two commission members were retired Judge Dalia Kobel and Bridagier General David Maimon.

    As with the two previous Israel government commissions of inquiry, the Bahalul-Minkovski (first) and Shalgo commissions (second), the Cohen commission gathered information but did nothing beyond that.

    The only positive purpose served by these commissions was to bring people involved in this sad story together. In some cases, parents were able to find their kidnapped children as a result.

    The only response these fortunate parents received from the committees was a "case closed" letter congratulating them for finding their children, and notifying them that the commission was finished taking their testimony. These cases received no press coverage. No notification was made to the public. It my belief, as a journalist who attended commission hearings and who researches this issue, that the Israel Government commissions are participating in a cover up of the truth regarding the kidnapped children.

    Unlike Public Security Minister Kahalani, there is one politician who continues to speak out publicly on this issue. He is Meretz Knesset member Ran Cohen. Following the August 17, 1997, cemetary expose, MK Cohen asked commission chairman Yehuda Cohen to assist any family which wants to open the grave of a "deceased" child. He asked that the State pay for opening these graves, as well as genetic testing of any bones that might be found. MK Cohen also asked the government's legal advisor to initiate a police investigation of criminal activities related to the disappearance of the children.

    Both the commission and the government legal advisor disregarded all of Ran Cohen's requests. Most people are unaware of the fact that, as MK Cohen told me, his family comes from Iraq and that two of his relatives were among the missing children. MK Cohen did not name the two relatives.

    Perhaps one of them is Ruti Cohen's missing daughter, whose empty grave was opened that August day. I raise this question because MK Cohen began to show an interest in this case after the August expose, the family names are identical and both are from Iraq. There is even a resemblance between MK Cohen and Ruti Cohen's father Aaron.

    Aaron Cohen and his family were interviewed the day after the cemetary dig by the Israeli newspaper "Yediot Acharonot." The interview carried the headline, "They told us she died, but the grave is empty."

    Aaron Cohen was quoted in the story as saying "They told us she died, but that's a lie. The grave is empty, she isn't there. She is alive, alive, alive!" Mr. Cohen dug into the grave with his own hands, about one meter deep, felt the soil, and found nothing at all. The family cannot forget their daughter, and the thought she might be still alive won't leave them."

    "The family came to Israel from Iraq, in 1951. The family reports that their daughter was two months old when the incident occurred, on the 26th of January, 1954. The mother says that the daughter began coughing one night, and the mother noticed she had a little fever. She took the daughter to a doctor the next day, and was told to take her to the Hadassah Hospital, in Tel Aviv. She gave her daughter to a nurse there at 1 P.M., and was then asked to leave. By 3 P.M. the family was called and told the girl was dead, and that they should not come to the funeral, because they [the hospital] would bury her themselves."

    "The mother was only 17 years old at the time this happened. Ever since the daughter's death, the family has been going to the Interior Affairs Ministry, and asking for a death certificate. The family was told their daughter does not even exist in the population records. The family's two other daughters, Shuli and Rachel, have invested much time and effort in attempting to secure some sort of official document which would enable them to clear up what happened over 43 years ago."

    "July of '97 was their first success in getting any sort of document. Shuli was able to get a death certificate which was sent with no date on it and various other details omitted. She went to them [ the Interior Ministry ] again, telling them of this problem, and was then given a completed death certificate, dated, with all the other details that had been missing."

    The "Miskhan Ohalim" operation in August, 1997, was not the only time an attempt was made to dig up graves. Prior to that a series of articles appeared in the "Yom LeYom" newspaper, by the journalists Yehuda Yisraelov and Shmuel Amrani. These two journalists have done an amazing job of gathering testimony and evidence about the case.

    One such story is that of Bracha Zugier, the daughter of Shalom and Sarah Zugier. Bracha's older sister Yehudit gave the testimony. As with many other cases, this one occured in the immigrant camp at Rosh HaAyin.

    When Bracha was about 7 months old she was sent to the Tel-HaShomer Hospital with minor gum problems. Soon after, the hospital notified the Zugier family that Bracha died.

    In this case the Zugiers were told to collect the body from the hospital.

    When several family members came to the hospital they were given a suitcase. The Zugiers were warned not to open the suitcase under any circumstances, but to bury it immediately. They were told that Bracha's body was in the suitcase, and that she had a dangerous contagious disease.

    The Zugiers were told that there was no need for a death certificate, or for any other kind of certificate. They should simply bury Bracha right away.

    Bracha's sister Yehudit, who gave the testimony on which this account is based, was a curious eight year old girl at the time. She saw the suitcase on a table in a room, opened it, and found a doll inside on a pile of straw.

    Yehudit called her mother, telling her that she found a doll in the suitcase. Yehudit's mother ran into the room, yelled at Yehudit for opening the suitcase, and closed it immediately, without noticing what was in the suitcase. Her mother could not imagine what was so obvious to the eight year old girl, that the suitcase contained nothing but a doll. She could not believe that the hospital lied to her about Bracha's death.

    Eight year old Yehudit did not realize the implications of her discovery.

    The suitcase with the doll in it was buried in the Rosh HaAyin Cemetery.

    Today, Yehudit is still sure that she saw a doll, not her sister Bracha.

    As the years passed, Yehudit continued to tell her family what she saw in the suitcase at the hospital. Her family began to believe that Yehudit was telling the truth, but did not know what to do about it.

    They began to receive mail for Bracha, including army draft notices and election registration forms. Interior Affairs Ministry and Population Registry office records indicated that Bracha was still alive.

    When they received no response to her draft notices, army representatives came to look for Bracha, thinking she was avoiding her army service.

    Bracha's father Shalom told the soldiers: "Look as much as hard as you can. Maybe you'll have some luck finding her."

    Shalom died a few months ago. Yehudit repeatedly asked him for years to testify before the government commissions. He told his daughter: "And all those who appeared before the commissions, what good did it do them?"

    Based on my research and interviews with families whose children disappeared, I believe that thousands of parents will not testify before the government commissions because they believe that their testimony will not make any difference.

    Two years before Bracha was stolen from the Zugier family, they came close to losing their son Shimon, who is alive and well today. At that time the family were new immigrants in Israel, and lived near Rosh HaAyin.

    Yehudit recalls: "Every day, nurses would walk around the camp, looking for children they could take to the baby homes for one reason or another.

    One nurse walked up to my mother and said: 'Your child looks ill, he needs vitamins.' Shimon, then about 3 years old, was taken to an infant care center approximately half a kilometer away from where we lived."

    "My father and I, when I was 6 years old, would go to the infant care center every day to visit Shimon, and Mom would sometimes come too. Dad would go in, and show Shimon to me through a window. One afternoon when we came they told my father not to go in. Daddy picked me up so I could look through the window. I told him Shimon's bed was empty. Daddy attempted to go in again and they told him that Shimon died."

    "Daddy was surprised. 'He was healthy this morning.' He again, requested to enter, and they said: 'You can't go in there - it's dangerous, you'll catch a disease.' Daddy was a strong man and did not give up. He forced the door open and went in. The doctor grabbed him, but Daddy pushed the doctor and went inside anyway, looking for Shimon. The hospital staff tried to stop him, but he continued from room to room, looking for Shimon."

    "I heard screams from inside the building. I was a personal witness to this entire story. Daddy found Shimon, alive and well. The hospital staff attempted to block his way out, so Daddy broke a window and jumped out holding Shimon."

    "The same day policemen came to our house to return 'sick' Shimon to the infant care center. Daddy raised havoc and yelled: 'I'll kill you all if it takes, but nobody's taking my son.' They told him: 'Your son is sick, you're going to die.' Daddy responded: 'Don't worry about me'."

    This story is almost identical to one I heard recently from relatives of a personal friend. My sources wish to remain anonymous. Their story is told by a woman, today a grandmother, the sister of a man who as a baby was almost stolen in the same way.

    This family immigrated to Israel from Tripoli, Libya, in the early 1950s. They lived in an Israeli immigration camp. One day, the family's youngest child, a several month old baby, was taken to an infant care center.

    The family visited him almost every day. The baby's mother arrived at the entrance to the child care center, and was told that her baby has died, and that she should leave. The mother insisted on seeing a body, but was told the body was already taken away. She forced her way into the center, despite staff efforts to stop her, and ran to her baby's room. She found him in his regular bed.

    The mother grabbed her baby, refused to let go, and began to scream. Fearing a confrontation, the child care center staff let her go.

    Families who found their "dead" children in immigration camp child care centers were fortunate. When the children "died" in regular hospitals, there was no way the families get their children back. A personal acquaintance of mine told me what happened to his brother at the Rambam Hospital in Haifa.

    The story of the Jerby family, also immigrants from Tripoli, Lybia, is told by two brothers whom I have known for many years. The brothers, Ya'acov and Tzion Jerby, both recall how they lost their baby brother Mordechai.

    Mordechai got sick and was taken from the immigration camp to Rambam Hospital. Their father regularly went to Haifa to visit Mordechai. One day the doctors told him that Mordechai had recovered, and that he would be released from the hospital in two days.

    When the father returned to the hospital two days later, he was told that Mordechai had died. He asked when Mordechai died and from what cause.

    The doctors gave him no answer. The father received no death certificate, nor was it told where Mordechai was buried. The family was planning to testify before the Cohen commission, which was closed down at the end of December 1997.

    So many incidents occurred at Haifa's Rambam Hospital that it acquired the nickname of the "Mengele Hospital" and "The Jewish Treblinka". However, Rambam was not the only hospital where immigrant children "died."

    The "Yom LeYom" article also describes the report on Channel One's "Mabat Sheni" news program, about Leora Lebkowitz, a journalist who used underground radar technology imported from the United States to check the graves. Ms. Lebkowitz conduced her tests in several cemetaries, and the results were simply unbelievable. Many of the graves were empty. Many tombstones had no graves beneath them. In the Pardes Hannah cemetery over 15 tombstones were found with no graves underneath.

    In Part Four of this series, you will learn about how these crimes were, and continue to be, covered up, and how the public is encouraged to forget about them. You will also learn about some of the individuals actively participating in this coverup.

    The Missing Children
    Part Four:

    In Part Three, you read about the empty graves belonging to children that were reported dead. Many of you asked why this shocking discovery that only hit the main press in August of 1997 did not cause drastic measures to be taken, and how the official Israeli government committee allowed itself to close down, less than five months after this discovery, as the committee would work only one day a week, for a mere 2-3 hours (not counting the several weeks the committee decided not to work for one reason or other).

    Part of the answer may be found, maybe, in the first official response to the results of the grave openings, given by Dr. Yehuda Hiss, the head of the Forensic Institute of Medicine, located in Abu-Kbir. To quote Dr. Hiss, from his press statement, on the 16th of August, 1997:

    "When opening a grave, one must make sure to dig to the depth of the grave, and in the children's burial plot in Kiriyat Shaul only a shallow opening of the graves was conducted, not as required. Every forensic doctor knows that bones that have been buried for tens of years can move to the sides and to a greater depth, from a distance of tens of centimeters up to a few meters, from their original burial spot. This is due to earth movement, and water penetration." The good Dr. did not comment on the fact that witnesses to the digs, and even the film, confirm that while conducting these digs they dug until they hit solid concrete. Another reason that Dr. Hiss states is that "It is necessary to remember we are speaking of infants, and small children, with very small bones, and to identify them there is need to conduct a thorough examination of the earth clods". One of the witnesses to the digs said, when reading the article reporting Hiss's statement: "And people are going to believe this? Even the manager of the cemetery was with us! Why isn't he saying anything?".

    For the legal record, let it be known that the writer of this article is not making any accusations whatsoever, merely stating facts. The readers will reach their own conclusions. This point is crucial for the rest of the article, as well as future articles.

    In the hands of the writer of this article, is a 54-page document, dated the 15th of January, 1996. This document is a protocol of Dr. Hiss's testimony to the official government committee on that date. Before going into the relevant contents of this document, let Dr. Hiss's description of his credentials, on that date, be known: "I am an expert in pathological anatomy, and an expert in forensic medicine, I am a senior lecturer in pathology and forensic medicine in the Hebrew University, and in the Tel Aviv University". When asked: ". . . and how long have you been in the business?", he answered: "I've been a doctor for approximately 20 years, a forensic doctor for about 12, and have been head of the Forensic Institute of Medicine, named after Greenberg, in Abu-Kbir, for 7 years".

    The next page or two speak of the fact he gave an opinion, in writing, to the Shalgi committee, that acted before the Cohen committee. He was asked, by the State attorney, Drora Nachmani-Roth: "Yes, now, your opinion to the Shalgi committee, was, I will read it to you, just a moment, it is written for Dr. Shalgi, the committee for finding the missing children, the population listing in the office of interior, it is written by you on the 9th of December, 1991, and its contents state: 'I confirm receipt of your letter on the topic from the 24th of November 1991, the bones and bone parts of infants and young children that are mentioned in your letter will survive after tens and hundreds of years, the chance of locating them in their burial place is good, and since the testing (D.N.A., and other methods of bone identification) is being done by experts in identifying human remains, of the Forensic Institute of Medicine, named after Greenberg, where there are forensic doctors expert in human anatomy and archeology, and expert in identification of human remains which will be able to give you the adequate professional information'. Do you recognise the letter you wrote?". Dr. Hiss answers: "Yes, I recognize its content, I look at it, and verify the truth of what is written". The State attorney goes on to ask him about any other contact with the Shalgi committee, to which she receives a negative answer. She then asks him if he stands behind the content of the letter he wrote, to which Hiss answers: "Definetely".

    Next, Nachmani presents him with the following question: "I would like you to make clear, perhaps even in detail, if there is need we will ask further questions, on what basis did you form this opinion?". Hiss then answered: "My short opinion was given based on personal and professional knowledge, and of course information from professional literature that deals with exhumation or removal of human remains from graves or various other burial sites that were buried there hundreds and even thousands of years ago. In cases of the burying of bodies of infants, children or adults in different places depends, of course, on the temperature, climate, and soil conditions. In the place of burial, the bodies go through a process of decay and, as a result, the soft tissue disappears, and what survives are the bones, which are the hard parts, or tissue, in our body, and they include the bones of the skeleton and teeth, and these remains survive for hundreds of years. Of course there are exceptional cases where either because of the conditions of very warm earth, like the earth in areas with volcanic activity and lava, and high heat activity due to fire, or other reasons, that even these remains can disappear, but in a case that the earth conditions are normal, and there are no floods, not that they ruin the bones, just move them from one place to another - it is usually possible after tens and hundreds of years to locate and identify, by certain scale, the remains that are left from bodies that were buried".

    The protocol goes on for a while, getting into details about identifying the remains found, which is currently irrelevant to us.

    What is relevant, however, is the fact that the testimony of Dr. Hiss was given in January of 1996, only a short time after the entire matter was getting much press, due to the surprising testimony of a woman, by the name of Sonia Millstein, who was a nurse in the Ein-Shemer immigration camp, in front of the official committee, around the middle of October, 1995. An article on it appeared in the weekend edition of the "Yediot Acharonot" newspaper, on the 20th, by a journalist by the name of Edna Adato. She was quoted to say: "I saw how the babies were sent in ambulances, in packages, and with no written records being taken". Sonia Millstein is a kibbutz resident, and was 86 at the time she gave the testimony. It was a man by the name of Avner Farhi who brought this witness to the stand. Her testimony was given, again, in Bet-Agron, the seat of the official committee on the matter. The "Yediot Acharonot" article reports that "For many hours, Millstein was questioned by Drora Nachmani, the State attorney. She tended to shake herself clean of responsibility, by claiming she 'didn't know' or 'didn't remember'". She was also quoted as saying: "I was only in charge of the equipment in the clinics and the staff. I did not meet with the human material in the camps". The article also reports that Millstein claimed she did not even hear, back then, of parents that lost their children. Another amazing quote of hers was: "The Yemenite mothers were bewildered and confused. They could not keep track of their children. I, as a European mother, would go and ask questions, take notes, and know where my son was. They were not able to do this". She was asked, by the State attorney: "Why didn't you make sure that would be done for them?", to which Millstein answered: "I had other worries back then. If I discovered that, after forty years, my child was alive, I would feel happy. I woud be pleased that my child received a good education in a good family. I am no racist. On the contrary". The truth of that statement should, of course, be determined by the reader.

    This testimony in front of the committee took a very interesting turn when Haim Giat, a 53 year old man, who was in the Ein-Shemer immigration camp too, stood up to testify. He recalled a story, in a voice choked by tears, that he remembers Sonia Millstein from the Ein-Shemer camp. He tells a story, in it, he was only 6 years old, when his cousin, an infant only months old, was taken to the clinic. When Millstein told the child's parents that the child is dead, they began wrecking havoc in the clinic, and making much noise. Then, to quote Giat, "Millstein walked into the room next door and brought the baby back to his parents, alive and well". Millstein angrily responded "I swear, that's a lie!".

    Another interesting piece of testimony presented to the committee, by the State attorney, was a quotation from the testimony of Roza Kotzinski, who was a nurse during that period of time, in the nursing room of camp A in Ein-Shemer, and testified to the committee later on, on the 25th of October, 1995. She was quoted to say: "I would take two or three babies in an ambulance to the Afula Hospital. We would leave healthy babies there. The next day I would ask: where are the babies? And their would tell me they are gone, dead. What do they mean died? But they were healthy, they had no sickness! Today, when people say they died, it's a lie. They were sold for adoption. Mostly in the United States . . ." At this point, Millstein again got angry, and said: "Roza Kotzinski's a liar! Maybe they brainwashed her". One comment heard, by one of the Yemenite fathers witnessing this testimony was "Maybe they brainwashed Sonia".

    To end the testimony, State attorney Nachmani showed Millstein a list of healthy children, that were present back then in a few of the hospitals in Israel, and later were said to be dead. Millstein's final reaction was: "I am tired of your questions. They are not relevant to me. I am already 86 years old. I'm allowed to forget . . . ."

    Sonia Millstein says she's allowed to forget. However, thousands of Jewish families bear a pain which the Sonia Millsteins in Israel and abroad have made impossible to forget.

    In the next article in this series, you will read more about how the issue is being kept out of the public eye, and of one of the people responsible for the sale of children in the United States.

    Continue to Part Five

    Return to Contents

    The Israel Resource Review is brought to you by the Israel Resource, a media firm based at the Bet Agron Press Center in Jerusalem, and the Gaza Media Center under the juristdiction of the Palestine Authority.
    You can contact us on