Obstruction of The Truth
Was there an obstruction of the due process of law,
during the investigation carried on by Shalgi's Committee?
Herein a review of articles published in 1996 by
"Yediot Achronot" and "Ha`aretz" in this matter.
On the 9th of January, 1996, the Israeli newspaper "Yediot
Acharonot" reported the following:
"...A surprising development in the issue of the
governmental committee for the research of the
missing children: A private investigator, involved
in the actions of the Shalgi committee, who
investigated this case in the past, was recently
questioned by the police, on the suspicion that he
has suppressed evidence and witness testimony, and
intimidated witnesses from testifying who were
supposed to appear before the governmental
committee currently in session and didn't.
The complaint that has been filed against A, the
private investigator, a resident of Jerusalem, was
filed by one of the governmental committee
members. . ."
The article goes on to state that:
"It should be noted that A, who is considered an
exceptionally skilled private investigator, and
received many praises for his actions in aiding
the Shalgi committee, and his work was said to be
'devoted and skilled'. Investigator A refused to
comment yesterday, as long as it is still under
The day I read this, I called a friend who has devoted his life to
researching this subject and who prefers to stay anonymous, to ask
him who A is. The answer was: "A? That's Ami Chovav, didn't you
It was then that I recalled certain suspicions different members of
the community hurt by this whole issue had voiced about Ami Chovav.
It was about a month and a half later that Ami Chovav finally
responded to a journalist for the Ha`aretz newspaper, Yigal Mashiach.
The article was published in Ha`aretz, of the 16th of Febuary, 1996
following media coverage which Chovav had received that week.
As the article reports, on Tuesday of the previous week he appeared on
the "Erev Chadash" TV One news-show also was interviewed on Channel
Two for the five o'clock news, and later on that night, on the
"Chasifa" (uncover) show, also on Channel Two.
The article reports Ami Chovav repeatedly used the same words in all
interviews, "as a well-trained actor, repeating a well-learned,
Ami Chovav was a member of the first investigation committee,
headed by Yosef Bahalul, and Reuven Minkovski, and was an official
investigator for the second committee, headed by retired Supreme
Court Judge, Moshe Shalgi.
Chovav was interviewed concerning the allegations that were current
then, that medical experiments were conducted on Yemenite children
hospitalized during the 1950s. Additionally Chovav was interviewed,
on Sunday of that week, on the "Mabat Sheni" TV news-show of Channel
One. There he attempted to discredit any talk about children being
stolen from their parents.
Ami Chovav began investigating this case in 1966 at the time when
families with children who were reported dead as infants began
receiving military summons for drafting into the Israeli Defense
Forces. Chovav says he went to the Defense Ministry to try and find
out how such a thing could have happened. He reports that the answer
he received was that everything was a mistake. He was told that when
the Defense Ministry received information on the new immigrants from
the Immigration Department of the Jewish Agency, the Ministry of
Interior forgot to report the death of the infants to the Ministry of
Defense, and so, the summons reached the families. Chovav says that
that answer was more than enough for him, since he immediately
understood it was simply a mistake in the reporting of deaths. When
Chovav was asked who the people he got that answer from were, he says
he "doesn't remember". The reader should note that this was an
official government investigator, on an official government
Chovav recalls that he was first chosen to investigate the case,
since he is a Yemenite, and has a past in the Military Intelligence.
Ami Chovav's final conclusions, regarding the fate of thousands of
missing children was, as first claimed, that the children had died in
Moshe Sharabi, living in New York, speaks of his disappointment in
Ami Chovav after Chovav's visit to New York, where he addressed
members of the Yemenite Jewish community. According to Sharabi, Ami
Chovav has deceived the entire Yemenite and Jewish community. He also
says it is impossible that Chovav has reached such definite and
complete answers for the disappearance of so many children.
Chovav has been working on the case ever since it first came up,
even before a government committee was formed. There was a public
committee formed in 1966 that he worked for as well, and afterwards,
in '67, the government formed a committee to look into the matter,
with two Ministers to supervise the committee, which were Sampson
Shapira, the Minister of Justice, and Eliahu Sasson, who was Chief of
Police. Chovav was appointed to this committee.
Chovav also claims that many of the disappearances of the children
can be explained by the fact that when a child was sent to the
hospital, it was done with no written records, and thus many children
were taken from their families with no one knowing to whom the child
belonged. When the family wasn't found, the child was sent to the WIZO
institute, and then, to adoption.
Chovav's findings point to the fact that hundreds of children were
sent to WIZO institutes, and while some were returned to their
parents, most were put up for adoption.
However, when speaking of numbers, one important thing Ami Chovav
was quoted as saying in the Ha`aretz article was "It is possible that
there are parents that have had children disappear, and didn't mention
it to anyone. For instance, after the Bahalul-Minkovski committee,
other parents showed up, that haven't mentioned anything to the
committee." Another astounding fact is that the Shalgi committee,
three years after it began its work, reported it was in a crisis. It
had hundreds of individual cases it was unable to solve, there was no
co-operation by the police, and after three years of work, it had
found solutions for only twenty-two of the cases. After Chovav joined
the committee, it was reported that in the next two years, Chovav
managed to solve all the remaining cases on his own.
Chovav reports that many of the children were taken to hospitals,
and their parents were not allowed to see them, since there was the
fear of contagious diseases.
In connection to a previous article in this series, three different
witnesses, according to Yigal Mashiach, have said that they saw Ami
Chovav speaking to Sonia Millstein, the nurse mentioned in part IV of
this series of articles, during her testimony in front of the Cohen
committee. Mashiach also says that, according to these three
different people, Chovav was guiding Millstein in what to say in her
testimony. Haim Giat, also mentioned in part IV, who testified that
Millstein lied to his uncle and aunt, telling them their child was
dead, and after they made a lot of noise, returned their child to
them, has filed a complaint against Chovav with the police stating
that Chovav tried to convince him not to testify. This is in
addition to the fact that Yehuda Cohen, head of the Cohen committee,
filed a complaint against Chovav with the police stating that Chovav
intimidated witnesses from testifying and suppressed witness
testimony, even though Ami Chovav had no formal connection with the
It is also evident that in Chovav's interview with Yigal Mashiach,
whenever he was asked something that raised certain questions about
what actually happened, his response was that he "couldn't remember".
One thing, strangely enough, that Chovav did not do, in all of his
years of research, was open graves and search for body remains. When
he was asked why some graves were found empty, Chovav said that the
bones were probably washed away in floods and such. He claims that
even the head of the "Chevra Kadisha" (Israeli burial authority) told
him that, in the early 1950's, they would not dig very deep graves.
When Chovav was asked the name of the head of the "Chevra Kadisha",
he claimed he "couldn't remember".
One of the people whom Chovav reportedly attempted to intimidate
from testifying is Menachem Chatucha. Chovav's response to hearing
this particular accusation was that all he did was tell him he had no
need to testify, since he knows where Chatucha's brother is buried.
One of the reasons claimed by Chovav that a body was never seen and
a grave site was not specified in many of the cases is, to quote,
"...The child that died would be sent to the
institute of pathology. Many were sent. It was for
a humanitarian cause, for advancing medical
research. I do not see anything wrong with that at
all." When he was asked about permission from the
family to do such a thing, he answered "In many of
the cases, they did not know who the child
belonged to, or where it came from. When there was
a family, they didn't want to show it the body.
Once the autopsy was completed, the body would be
completely dismembered. Were they supposed to show
that to a religious parent? The refrigeration
compartment would eventually fill up, and then
they called the Chevera Kadisha to come and bury
all the body parts."
He added, regarding the pathological institute not telling the
"I asked them. They said it wasn't their job, it
was the hospital's job. But the hospital did not
always know who the child belonged to..."
One example of a reason for this that was given by Chovav:
"In one case, the children were taken in the
ambulance in cardboard boxes, since they weren't
going to put babies on stretchers. On that
specific trip, they put notes with the children's
names on top of the boxes. The wind blew all the
notes away. That is how the children were brought
to the hospital."
One man who spoke against Ami Chovav was Yigal Yosef, head of the
Rosh Ha-Ayin city council. Yosef was a member of the Shalgi
committee, and when the committee finished working, he refused to
sign its final report.
Yosef mentions that Ami Chovav is "working for someone." He says
that "All that interested Chovav was to get everything done with as
quickly as possible. He worked in the Shalgi committee like he
worked in the Bahalul-Minkovski committee, without even checking the
authenticity of the documents. His main concern was to close cases."
He adds, later on
"...I do know he was very enthusiastic to get
cases closed. From the moment he began working for
the committee, everything worked out for them. I
have a very serious problem with the methods he
used, especially regarding the WIZO institutes.
Why wasn't the committee looking for the children
who were sent to the WIZO institutes? After all,
Chovav claims they were sent to WIZO for adoption
because of names being confused, because they
weren't able to find the parents, so why weren't
they looking for all of those that were given up
for adoption through WIZO? Why did the committee
concentrate on the dead, and not the living?"
To add to what Yosef said, this should have been especially
crucial, since the committee did not check any graves, only the death
certificates that were unverified. There were many cases where death
certificates were issued and the children were found alive later, and
other cases where death certificates were found, but never the bodies
of the children The readers should remember the report in part I in
this series, where Yehuda Cohen and the committee found a cache of
pre-signed blank birth and death certificates in the country's
archives with the help of Yehudit Hivner, a retired high-ranking
Interior Ministry official, who was unable to provide answers to many
of the committee's questions, and denied the allegations that she
supposedly had lists of the children that disappeared in the 1950's.
It is obvious that a pre-signed death certificate does not point to
anything definite in these cases...
Yosef also states that the reason the infants were listed as
deceased was to "make them anonymous, so they could be easily sold
Yosef also mentions that Chovav was hired for the committee by
Moshe Shalgi, and he himself had nothing to do with it. Yosef says
"It seems like Chovav was hired to obstruct our work. It is part of
that same suspicion that causes everyone to question him. He was
rushing, obsessively, to every event that had anything to do with the
missing children, as if he did not finish his job of quieting things,
on behalf of high-ranking forces in the government."
As said before, it should have been the job of the committee to
open graves, and at least verify the death certificates. To this
date, none of the three different committees has done anything of the
sort. When Moshe Shalgi was asked why they did not open graves, he
"The committee's mandate was to look into the fate
of the missing children, not to go into questions
beyond that, like the behavior patterns of that time,
or the treatment of the Yemenites."
There are many people who were not satisfied by this answer.
Again, it is extremely important to remember that the cases of
missing children range through many of the different ethnic groups of
Jewish immigrants, probably all, and that the Yemenites were most
definitely not the only ones against whom such crimes were committed,
although it is often the Yemenites that take drastic measures to
bring the issue to public attention. It is notable that the issue of
stolen babies has become stigmatic of the Yemenite community, and is
only referred to as "The case of the stolen Yemenite children", or
"The Yemenite children issue", and so has been kept from public
scrutiny, as people have come to see it as a "Yemenite problem".
A strange comment by Moshe Shalgi was that
"Ami Chovav is not a representative of the
committee in any way or form. He speaks
enthusiastically, but only for himself."
This comment is strange, since Shalgi also was said to have worked
hard to hire Chovav himself, and has supported his work all the way.
He has even admitted that
"I don't remember the exact words I used, but I
recommended he get the job of the investigator,
thanks to the experience he had gained in the
All in all, Ami Chovav is a controversial figure, and many people
do not know what to think of him.
Lastly, dear reader, you have gotten till now some of the very
odd facts. Could you draw a conclusion?
© Yechiel Mann,