view from central park: tehilla r. goldberg

Israel’s stolen children of Yemen


It always was and always will be unforgivable: The heartrending story of Yaldei Teiman, the Children of Yemen.

At some point when I was young, I became aware of this dark chapter in Israel’s early history, in which the country’s secular elitist leaders separated religious Yemenite children from their families, their tightly curled pe’ot cut away as they were indoctrinated to abandon their rich religious Yemenite Jewish family traditions of millennia.

I had heard the part about separating children from parents, but always assumed it just meant requiring the children to board at secular schools or something to that effect. It never occurred to me that actual separations — kidnappings — were involved. That’s when I learned about the faked deaths of Yemenite children — parents who birthed babies in hospitals, only to be told that their baby had died.

No tangible sign of the baby’s short life was given to the parents, no grave marker, nothing.

Presumably, the motivation for this was to give these children to Ashkenazi families to adopt, so that they could be “cultivated” as “enlightened” citizens.

The unresolved hellish heartache to which these Yemenite families were subjected may be coming to a head. Finally, there is a consensus in the Knesset about opening sealed documents that, disturbingly, were meant to remain unopened until the generation of the people in question has died out.

On his Facebook page, Prime Minister Netanyahu wrote: “The subject of the Yemenite Children is an open wound that continues to bleed for many families, who don’t know what happened to their infants…”

In a video statement, he said that “the time has come to know what happened and to do justice” and “to reveal the truth about the Yemenite Children.”

It’s right, and long overdue, to grapple with this, even though true justice for decades of shattered lives will not ever really be achieved. Perhaps we will at least learn the whereabouts of so many mysteriously missing persons.

Babies were stolen!

As this was discussed in the Knesset, grown adults were sobbing like babies.

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