The Empty Graves

by Yechiel A. Mann
Eshhar, Israel

as shown on TV1
  1. Preface
  2. The Hearing
  3. The Empty Graves - this page
  4. Was there Cover Up?
  5. Were the Children Sold?
  6. Obstruction of The Truth
  7. The Hidden Scandal
  8. A Body has never been found
  9. Says Lubavitcher Rebbe
  10. Swept Under the Magic Carpet
  11. Margalit Omessi and Tzila Levine
  12. Yemenite Scandal Directory
March 30, 1998

Most of the parents were told that their children died, although these children were likely kidnapped . . . There was neither a death certificate, nor any proof of a death given. . . . there were no known graves.   In this chapter however I present few cases where the parents 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 that was taken place on
August 13, 1997, where members dug up four of these "graves" at
the Kiryat Shaul Cemetery.  The film was broadcast a week later
on TV's Channel One News.

  This film shows the "graves" as they are being dug up.  In each
case the "grave" was found empty.  These "graves" had allegedly
contained the remains of four children: Ruti Babu, Ruti Cohen,
Moshe Mishraki and Reuven Refaelov.

  The parents of these children came to the Kiryat Shaul Cemetery
together with  "Mishkan Ohalim" representatives, cemetery 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
cemetery, states on the film: "The child isn't here, there's just
sand, and nothing more."

  The stories of other cases are pretty much identical.  Parents
were told at the Hospitals that the child, who was a few months
old, got sick, and died.

  The issue was reported on the Israeli Official Radio as follows:
"Four families of Yemenite origin have discovered the graves in
which their babies were supposedly buried forty years ago are

  "Israel TV's Channel 1 filmed the opening of the graves at the 
Kiriyat Shaul Cemetery and broadcasted it.  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 wooded 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

  Public Security minister Avigdor Kahalani has expressed his shock
at the discovery of the empty graves.  Kahalani is of Yemenite
origin.  He said 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 reported inaccurately that "all the
children were Yemenite."  However, the Cohen family came from
Iraq.  The State Radio reported also that Israel TV's Channel 1 
filmed the opening of the graves, while the film was made by the 
"Mishkan Ohalim" organization, and later on broadcasted on 
Channel 1 news.

  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 Maimon.

  Like the two previous Israeli Commissions of inquiry (nominated
by the Government), the Bahalul-Minkovski commission (first) and
the Shalgi commission (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
has finished taking their testimony.  These cases received no
press coverage.  No notification was made to the public.

  It is the opinion of many that the Israeli Government commissions
are eager to cover up of the truth regarding these kidnapped 

  Unlike Public Security Minister Kahalani, there is a politician
who continues to speak out publicly on this issue.  He is Meretz
Knesset member Ran Cohen.  Following the August 17, 1997,
cemetery exposure, MK Cohen asked commission chairman Yehuda
Cohen to assist any family, who wants to open the grave of a
"deceased" child.  He asked the State to 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 these children.

  Both, the third 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 two relatives.

  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
cemetery dig by the Israeli newspaper "Yediot Acharonot."  The
headline of this article was, "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 their
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 been missing."

  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 Le-Yom" 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 Ha-Ayin.  When Bracha was about seven
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 hospital.  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 disease.  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 away.

  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
according to her testimony she found a doll inside on a pile of

  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 death.

  Eight year old Yehudit did not realize the implications of her
discovery.  The suitcase with the doll in it was buried in the
Rosh Ha-Ayin Cemetery.  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 army service.  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 them?"

  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 allegedly 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 Ha-Ayin.

  Yehudit recalls: "Every day, nurses would walk around the camp,
looking for children they could take to the baby homes for one
reason or another.  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 me'."

  This story is almost identical to the 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

  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 center.

  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.  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 cause.  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 "died."

  The "Yom Le-Yom" article also describes the report on TV's 
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 cemeteries, 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 
fifteen tombstones were found with no graves underneath.

The next article includes details of how these alleged crimes
were and continued to be covered up, and public interest is
encouraged to forget about them.  You will also read of some of
the individuals actively participating in this cover-up.

© Yechiel Mann,
Eshhar, Israel

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