Decades Later, Protesters Demand Israeli President Recognize Kidnapping of Yemenite Children

Demonstrators march in Jerusalem, calling for justice in affair still veiled in mystery

A Yemenite woman claiming her son was taken from her in Israel's early years marches in Jerusalem, July 31, 2019.
Olivier Fitoussi

Some 200 people demonstrated in front of the Prime Minister’s Residence and the President’s Residence in Jerusalem Wednesday evening, demanding that the state recognize what they contend was the systematic, state-sponsored kidnapping of Yemenite children during Israel’s early years.

The demonstrators carried posters bearing pictures of children with the dates they claimed the children were kidnapped.

The demonstration was organized by the Amram organization to mark a day of awareness of the hundreds or thousands of missing children born to Jewish immigrants from Yemen, other Middle Eastern countries and the Balkans.

Amram canceled a planned meeting with President Reuven Rivlin when the latter refused to call for official recognition of what it says is an injustice to these communities.

>> Read more: Israel's missing Yemenite kids were abducted, families believe. The archives tell a different story | Opinion ■ '$5,000 a head': Yemenite babies who disappeared in 1950s Israel were sold to U.S. Jews, film claims

A state committee charged in 2001 with examining allegations of the children’s disappearance determined that there was no factual basis of organized “abduction” of Yemenite children. That committee, and two previous one, determined that most had died of illness and a minority had been adopted.

The committee’s conduct and professionalism was questioned by families, legal experts and the media, including Haaretz, which published a series of investigative reports on the affair.

“The issue of the Yemenite children is an open wound that continues to bleed in many families who do not know what happened to the babies, to children that disappeared, and they are looking for the truth,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in 2016.