Can Ashkenazi Jews Face Israel’s Dark History of Family Separation?
JFREJ Mizrahi Caucus member Hannah Goldman has authored an incisive, moving op-ed in the Forward on the Yemenite Children Affair, using her own family’s history and drawing connections with family separation and deportations today.
You can read testimonies of families whose children were kidnapped on the Amram website, recently translated into English, here.
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Here’s an excerpt:
My grandmother gave birth to her daughter Malkah, which means queen in Hebrew, on February 27, 1961, in Jerusalem’s Bikur Holim hospital.
When Malkah was four months old, she developed a serious fever. Nursing staff at the hospital took her and instructed my grandmother to come back the next day. When she returned the following morning, the nurses told her that Malkah had died.
My grandmother demanded to see Malkah’s body, but the nurses told her she had already been buried. They refused to tell her where Malkah’s grave was, and would not give her an official death certificate.
Her child was gone with no explanation and there was nothing she could do. She was a poor Moroccan immigrant woman who could not speak or read Hebrew. She had no means to advocate for herself, to fight against the Israeli state. So she returned home, burying her grief and the story of her lost child.
My grandmother was far from the only woman to endure this trauma of family separation. Thousands of immigrant families have come forward to tell of babies kidnapped between the late 1940s and 1960s, the majority between 1948-1956, in what has come to be known as the “Yemenite Children Affair.” Most of the affected families came from Yemen (some have estimated that one in eight Yemeni children were kidnapped during that period), but many immigrants from other parts of the Middle East, North Africa and the Balkans also lost their children.
As I’ve witnessed the separation of families at the U.S./Mexico border, I can’t help but think of Malkah. Even as many in the Jewish community draw powerful connections between the U.S. government’s devastating new policy and the legacy of child separation during the Holocaust, I think of another legacy: the Mizrahi babies taken from their mothers by the Israeli state, a policy still unknown or silenced within our own Jewish communities, which produced decades of denial, secrecy and intergenerational trauma.