On the 5th of May, 1998, I attended a rally held by the "Mishkan
Ohalim" organization, at Gan HaAtzmaut (the Independence Gardens), in
Present at the rally were some members of 1,500 families who
suffered the kidnapping or "disappearance" of their children, each
with a shocking story of their own. An emphasis was placed at the
rally on those of the families that had arrived here during the
"Magic Carpet" operation in the early years of the state that saw
Jewish families from Yemen brought to Israel in the effort to
increase the immigration of Diaspora Jews. Operation "Magic Carpet"
was initiated in 1949, and is said to have brought approximately 50
thousand Yemenite Jews to Israel. In course of the operation, about
380 flights took place, by British and American planes. The flights
left from Aden, the capital of Yemen. Most of the Yemenite Jews lived
in different locations in Yemen, and went through many difficulties
getting to Aden. There were families from Eastern European countries
as well as the U.S. and South America (and most other countries where
Jews immigrated to Israel from) who had also lost their sons and
daughters under similar circumstances.
Present at the rally were Members of Knesset Rabbi Arieh Gamliel,
Rabbi Benny Elon, Mudi Zandberg, David Tal, Hanan Porat, Prof. Avner
Shaki, Marina Solodkin as well as such prominent Rabbis as Shlomo
Korach, Dr. Nachum Rabinowitz, and Dr. Ratzon Arusi.
Rabbi Menachem Porush, who has publicly stated that he knows the
identities of organizers of the kidnapping operation and those who
carried it out, failed to appear at the rally.
Rabbi Yosef Ba-Gad showed up by surprise, as well as other
important figures such as Yigal Yosef, mayor of Rosh-HaAyin, and a
number of well-known Israeli singers,who came to show support.
Each of the speakers at the rally had their turn to speak at the
rally. Fascinating speeches were given by Knesset Member Rabbi Benny
Elon, Yitzhak Keren (the ex-policeman mentioned in part one of this
series), Eddie Mor (who gave a long, emotional speech that had the
audience on the edge of their seats ), as well as the mother of
Shlomo Asulin. Shlomo Asulin was a student of Rabbi Uzi Meshulam, who
was gunned down by Israeli security forces in the Yehud incident.
Rabbi Meshulam's wife was also present at the rally, although she
didn't speak in front of the audience. All speeches that were given
spoke of the terrible crimes committed, and how everything possible
should be done to bring families back together, and the guilty to
It should be noted here that none of the prominent figures who made
these statements have done anything concrete to advance either of
One interesting woman at the rally was Dora Vachnun, a 48 year old
woman who lives in Haifa and had her sister taken from her nearly 42
years ago. After having a short conversation with Dora, I decided to
stay in touch with her, pay her a visit, and set up an interview
with her .
When I arrived at her house, I was surprised when she asked me if
I'd like her mother, Esther Meshulam (no relation to Rabbi Uzi
Meshulam) present as well. As a result, I first interviewed Dora, and
then Esther, who arrived later on.
The Meshulam family (who had their name changed to Emeshulam,
before they immigrated to Israel) immigrated from Istanbul, Turkey,
around the beginning of 1950. Both Dora and Esther recalled the
conditions they encountered upon their arrival in Israel. Although
Dora's father made a substantial income working on the Haifa docks,
the conditions of any immigrant in Israel's first years were not
good. Esther recalls their situation being better than most
immigrants of the period. Their family was the only one at the
immigration camp to have a sink in their shack. Esther worked hard to
make their shack look as cheerful as possible. She recalls how she
cleaned the shack, how she painted it, put flowers there, and made it
a wonderful living environment. "Anyone that would come into the
shack would be surprised, and ask 'this is supposed to be a shack?
This looks like a villa!' ", says Esther. Their family was
financially secure and had no problem whatsoever providing for their
children. Dora has two brothers.
Esther (E)Meshulam, now 73 years old, gave birth to Mazal (I.D.
5391242) on the 5th of January, 1956. On the 20th of September,
1956, Esther took Mazal outside for some fresh air, while going to
buy meat and after a while she noticed Mazal seemed to be feeling a
little ill, so she took her to a nearby doctor. The doctor wasn't
home at the time, so she took her daughter to another doctor, who
also was not home. Esther then took Mazal to the Rambam Hospital.
When she arrived, a doctor examined Mazal and said that she looked
fine, and asked Esther why she had brought Mazal. Esther said that
Mazal was not feeling well, and was a little pale. The doctor said
that they would watch Mazal for a little while, and told Esther not
When Esther entered the ward to stay with Mazal, a nurse yelled at
her, told her to leave, and said that the families aren't permitted
to stay with their babies.
Esther returned to their shack later in the afternoon, disturbed
that she had left her baby alone. Her husband, Meir-Nissim, upon
seeing her distress, told her not to worry, that he would go see
Mazal. He arrived at Rambam Hospital around 4 in the afternoon. At
the hospital, he was not permitted to enter the ward, but they took
him to a window, where he was able to see the babies . He saw Mazal,
who recognized him, and stretched her arms towards him. They didn't
let him take her at that point. But he was content with the fact that
he had seen she was healthy. He returned to the shack and told Esther
that Mazal was doing fine, and that she would probably be released
that day or the day after.
It was 2-3 hours later when two men, who claimed to be policemen,
appeared at the Emeshulam's shack. They announced to the family that
Mazal had died. The family was in shock. The parents cried all that
night. The next day, the family arrived at the cemetery to see a
"body" that was not identified by anyone and hurriedly buried. All
that the family saw was a white sheet with something inside it, tied
on both ends, and completely covered with blood. The family was
petrified at the sight of the blood. Upon telling this, Esther broke
out in tears.
Dora recalls how they have always wondered about the entire case.
Their suspicions intensified after the entire issue of stolen
children was raised. No one ever had the chance to see a body. One
month after the "death" of Mazal, the family received a letter
explaining that Mazal had died from a heart attack.
In the past few years, Dora has been doing everything she can to
try and find her sister. She has turned to the "Mishkan Ohalim"
organization. She speaks highly of their efforts to bring this issue
to light. She turned to the Rambam Hospital, asking to see Mazal's
files. She was at first denied access to these files, but then her
brother, Police Superintendent Yaakov Meshulam, turned to the courts,
asking for an order to be allowed to see the files. After that, they
got the permission to see the files.
The document that describes the disease states "For two days the
girl has been sick with diarrhea and has been throwing up. She coughs
a little as well. According to the mother, the girl became a little
pale and cold. This has happened a few times before, and has passed".
Esther recalls that it wasn't a serious condition, just a slight
illness. Esther also mentioned that Mazal was not throwing up at all.
Dora mentioned she wonders what possible connection there may be
between a heart attack and diarrhea. The part intended for "previous
diseases" is blank.
What is probably the most interesting document in this case is the
burial certificate, numbered 12348. It states: "Name: Meshulam Mazal.
Address: Apartment 27 [of the immigration camp] Age: 9 months. [to be
accurate, it was 8 and a half] Gender: Female. Citizenship: [Blank]
Religious affiliation: Jewish. Cause of death: Myocardio Infarction.
[Heart attack] Place of burial: Haifa. The certifying Doctor: Garfel.
[Signature] Examiner of cause of death: [Blank] Official signature:
[Either a signature or just a tiny scribble] Signature of the Health
Ministry clerk: [Blank]."
One interesting thing about this document is the fact that the
certifying Doctor was Dr. Garfel. Garfel is said to have been
involved in other cases where children have been stolen. Ora Shifris,
spokeswoman for the "Mishkan Ohalim" organization recalls the case of
a man in Jerusalem who had his brother stolen, and found it also
involved Dr. Garfel, who worked in the children's ward of Haifa's
Another interesting fact about this document is that both spaces
which should contain the signatures of the examiner of cause of
death, and the signature of the Health Ministry clerk (and possibly
the official signature) were left blank. By law, both spaces should
Another interesting document I've found is the "Patient summary",
which contains details about Mazal, and the entry: "Diagnostic:
Myocardiac." The rest of the page, which is titled "Summary of
disease" is surprisingly blank.
Dora lives in Haifa with her husband and those of her children who
haven't yet married and left the house. Dora has seven children:
Moshe (13), David (16), Anna (17), Eli (25), Meir (26), Avigail (28)
and Mazal (30).
Upon arriving at their house that morning, I was greeted warmly by
Dora and her daughter Avigail. It was then that Dora asked me if she
should call her mother over, and told me she lived a few houses away.
Later on that day, some of her other children arrived. Moshe, an
active child who stayed to hear the story again, despite the many
times he'd heard it before (and who made sure to get in a comment
whenever he could). Anna and David, who didn't spend much time at
home, arrived later on.
As Dora recalled the story, she made sure not to leave out a single
detail about Mazal, the story of their immigration, and detailed
explanations about everything down to how their family name was
changed from Meshulam to Emeshulam before they came to Israel. She
recalled how her mother returned to the shack that day of September
20th, 1956, in tears for having to leave her beloved Mazal at the
hospital, away from her watchful eye. She recalled how her Dad then
made sure to go see how Mazal was doing, and how he returned to the
shack and reassured her mother. She recalled how the two "policemen"
arrived at the shack and announced Mazal's death and how her parents
stayed up all night crying in the light of an oil-lamp, since they
had no electricity in the immigration camp. She recalled being taken
in by her neighbours, so as not to see the pain and anguish of her
parents, how the "body" of her sister was buried hurriedly by two men
who never identified themselves, and the terrible sight of the sheet
completely covered with blood. Her trauma from this terrifying
experience is evident. Dora still searches for her sister. She tries
to get assistance from anyone that may be able to help. Dora comes
from a family with an excellent reputation which has done much for
the city of Haifa. Dora was given an "Outstanding Citizen" award by
the Mayor of Haifa, Amram Mitznah. Dora and her brothers are well
known in Haifa, and have received many honours, awards and
commendations for all their family has done, and is still doing.
She told a number of amazing stories of her family in the early
days, and all her parents sacrificed for the sake of the Zionist
cause, to live in Israel. How they came to build the country in it's
first days,and accepted whatever conditions they had to endure for
this cause, even when that meant accepting any job they could find
without complaining. How they believed it important for them to live
in Israel. Dora told of the tough conditions in the immigration
camps, with no electricity and only basic necessities. They lived in
that shack in the immigration camp for nine years. The Meshulams are
a proud family of good standing. During all the years after Mazal was
taken from them, her father, Meir-Nissim, was terribly distressed,
and spoke to everyone of the way she was taken from them. He spoke of
how it was impossible that from such a common illness his baby could
have died. This has haunted their family for nearly 42 years.
Meir-Nissim passed away on September 11th, 1993, at the age of 73,
without seeing his daughter for almost 37 years.
Esther spoke of the depth of her family's pain and the devastation
caused by the lies and the terrible scandal that went on back then,
which was only discovered years later. How little children were torn
from their families, while the horror-struck parents were told that
their child had died in some terrible way. Esther and her family were
never given a death-certificate for Mazal. Esther hopes and prays
that she will find Mazal soon, as thousands of other families still
do. She also recalled their immigration years, and their Zionist
family. She told of her life back in Istanbul, and their arrival at
the "Selniks-Sha'ar Aliyah" (immigration entrance) immigration camp.
Esther is worried since she hears stories of how some of the parents
that have adopted the stolen children were told the original parents
had forsaken their children, and so passed this on to the children.
This concept is too much for Esther to bear. "Maybe they told her
that we ' threw her to the dogs' ", says Esther. Dora finds it hard
to cope with the fact that Mazal was taken because Esther cared for
her so much and was doing everything she could to ensure her
Esther has lived with this trauma her entire life. It's impossible
to imagine how much this has affected her both emotionally and
physically. Esther lives with pills she takes every three hours.
Esther recalls how much her husband cried for their daughter, and how
the pain was so intense. She recalls the support the family received
from friends. Friends that "feel their loss, share their pain, cry
their tears...Mazal should be with us now. She's 42 now, and should
be sitting right here, beside me".
One of the most shocking moments of the interview was hearing Dora
and Esther speaking of the burial. They spoke of how they couldn't
even get close to the "body" being buried, that was covered with
blood. They began to speculate where all the blood came from, and
what was buried. "Maybe they slaughtered a chicken", Dora said.
"Maybe they took a dead dog, and buried that", Esther said. As much
as one can "prepare" oneself to hear these stories, these are the
moments that are hardest to cope with.
At one point, Dora went to the home of a doctor Zeltzer, who she
remembers worked in the children's ward in the Rambam Hospital. She
thought that maybe he could give her some answers, since he was one
of the older doctors working there then. Zeltzer, although still
alive, is an ill man. Dora waited at his home until he returned. When
he arrived, she questioned him. Zeltzer then told her he'd been
through a stroke, and due to the damage caused by the stroke he can't
recall many details from his past, as well as anything connected to
Dora remembers a few doctors that worked in the ward then,
including Zeltzer and a doctor Bender-Lee, who she said is still
alive, and living in Haifa. Dora is sure that the doctors know of
what happened and can give details, but that there is a plot to keep
everyone silent, and these horrible crimes swept neatly under the
In many of the cases, swept under the "Magic Carpet".
This is one of the things that disturbs the families terribly,
especially since the mainstream press is, for all practical purposes,
still ignoring the issue .
Dora and Esther speak of how parents have gotten old and died
without seeing their children since they were taken. This is why
everything should be done immediately to bring the families together.
All Esther, and many other parents like her, would like to do before
they pass away is to find their child, to see them if only once, to
hold their child, to tell her "Mazal, we did not forsake you!", as
her daughter may have been told. They turn to people in the
government for assistance. These people, who have done nothing
serious enough to bring results, have betrayed the trust these
families have placed in them, have forsaken the loving parents and
families of these children, and thousands of other parents and
families. Mazal's father has already passed away, but her mother
would give anything just to see her again.
I have them in piles beside me. Documents. Interviews with Dora and
Esther. Audio and video tapes. One case. One case out of thousands
like it. Thousands of tragic stories that won't go away. These crimes
cannot be "swept neatly under the carpet". There are too many
families in terrible pain to allow that to happen.
To make an understatement, this was not what the families were
expecting when they immigrated to Israel.
These families have not forsaken their children. Nor have they
abandoned hope of seeing them again.
No human being of conscience can abandon them . . . especially not
Jews of conscience.
© Yechiel Mann,