Israeli Cabinet votes to declassify documents about alleged kidnapping of Yemenite children

Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel’s Cabinet unanimously agreed to declassify more than 400,000 documents dealing with hundreds of Yemenite children who disappeared from Israeli hospitals in the 1950s.

The families believe the children were given to Ashkenazi families in Israel and abroad for adoption. Over 1,000 families, mostly Yemenite, have made such claims.

The parents were told that the newborn or young children had died, though they never received proof, including the child’s body.

Several government commissions determined that most of the children had died in the hospital.

Some 15 years ago, a State Commission of Inquiry into the accusations decided to seal many of the documents for 70 years. The Cabinet on Sunday overturned this decision.

The Cabinet’s decision will be considered by the Knesset Constitution Law and Justice Committee, which must make the final approval.

Likud lawmaker Tzachi Hanegbi, who investigated the closing of the documents at the direction of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, called the Cabinet’s decision to make the documents public important.

“Today’s decision will not eliminate the pain and suffering that thousands of immigrants have endured. Brothers, sisters and families, live with the feeling of their children gone for many decades,” Hanegbi said Sunday at the Cabinet meeting.

“But this decision is important in two respects. First of all, to really allow family members and their authorized representatives, and in fact to the public to go online and see the difficult, oppressive and gloomy picture in its fullness, and get as close as possible to understanding the truth. Secondly, the government today, I believe, will put an end to this unbearable reality, unjustified confidentiality, that has been imposed for seventy years on these materials, at least in mine and in the eyes of the professional staff, and we could not find any discussion, any explanation that clarifies why anyone thought it was so necessary. It will put an end to the suspicion, skepticism and mistrust towards the state agencies by the families.”