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Newly opened adoption files may shed light on missing Yemenite children

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The Knesset approved a Bill on Tuesday to allow families who came to Israel from Yemen in the early days of the state to find out whether the children they claimed were kidnapped from them were in fact put up for adoption.
by OWN CORRESPONDENT | Jul 05, 2018

According to the new law, anyone who is concerned that a close relative may have been taken from the family and put up for adoption can ask a senior social worker to check adoption records to see if their relative’s name appears there. If the relative was put up for adoption, the Attorney General will be notified, and will ask the courts to decide whether to give the details of the adoption to the family seeking missing relatives.

Currently, citizens who were themselves adopted may search for their family upon reaching the age of 18. Families seeking children who have disappeared did not previously have access to the adoption files.

Since the 1950s, more than 1 000 families – mostly immigrants from Yemen, but also dozens from the Balkans, North Africa, and other Middle Eastern countries – have alleged their children were systematically kidnapped from Israeli hospitals and put up for adoption, sometimes abroad.

Likud MK Nurit Koren who chairs the Knesset lobby tasked with researching what is known as the “Yemenite Children Affair”, and whose own cousin disappeared at a young age, praised the new law.

“This is a historic, revolutionary law which will give answers to the families,” she said. “Today, many families in the state have suffered for many years from uncertainty about their dear ones, and they will now, finally, receive answers.

“This proposal is another of the many steps I advanced within the committee I head, whose goal is twofold. The first is to reach the truth of the matter,” she said. “The second is to ease the bureaucratic burden on the families involved in the affair. Opening the adoption records will give an answer, and will help us to reach the truth.”

The law follows a February Bill which allowed the opening of graves for the purpose of genetic testing, allowing the families of children who went missing in the Yemenite Children Affair of 1958-1970 to seek a court-ordered exhumation of remains to enable DNA comparisons.

About 49 000 Yemeni Jews were brought to the nascent State of Israel in Operation Magic Carpet in 1949-1950.

Disputed by scholars and seemingly refuted by three state commissions that examined the affair and concluded that most of the children had died, the case has kept resurfacing, not least because most of the families were not given their children’s bodies or informed of their burial places. Furthermore, the death certificates were riddled with errors, and most of the missing children were sent army draft notices 18 years after their alleged deaths. There have also been cases in which adopted children were able to confirm, via DNA tests, that they were from Yemenite families who were told that they had died.

The Bill comes after the state archives declassified 400 000 documents on the affair in December 2016.

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