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