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 Tel 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
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 is known that this "institute" was one of many that took
stolen children, sold them, and classified the transactions as
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 Yemenite 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 (1054761) was
presented before the committee. Zarah was the third child in the
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. Leah 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's 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
Rabbi Porush said that he discussed the disappearance of the
children with Prime Minister David 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 the
case of the stolen children.
Rabbi Porush resumed testifying before the committee. The
committee chairman , retired Supreme Court Judge Yehuda Cohen,
criticized 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 cover-up. 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
TV-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,"
Yemenite 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 "Modi" 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
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, a committee member 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
[a child with the same name -Y.M.] 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 cover-up on this question. Keep
it in mind, for we will return to this point as our investigation
I would 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 ".
© Yechiel Mann,