In the same week that four graves were opened, Tzila Levine arrived in Israel. Mrs. Levine came from Sacramento, California with the thought that she may have been taken from her original family and sold for adoption as a child.
She arrived in Israel with a written declaration she received from her adopting mother stating that she was adopted as a foundling. Also, her dark skin led her to believe that she may have been kidnapped from her parents as she heard happened with other children. She came to Israel to see if she could find her biological parents.
On the 18th of August, 1997, a report on Tzila Levine appeared in the Yediot Acharonot newspaper. Tzila was quoted as saying “I am only asking to find my biological parents and find out who really brought me into the world”. Levine (50), who lives in Sacramento, California was adopted by a couple who lived on the Ein Ha-Mifratz Kibbutz.
The newspaper further reported that her parents told her they had received her from a doctor in a medical clinic in the Haifa area, and told her that she was adopted when she was six years old. Levine was quoted, “All the years I was different in the Kibbutz. Everyone was light-skinned and I was the only one with dark skin”.
The article reports that Tzila Levine began searching for her parents when her adopting mother died, five years before the article was written. She also was quoted as saying, “I went to the archives of the Ein Ha-Mifratz Kibbutz, and asked for the documents related to my adoption. I found that the adoption certificates said I was a foundling child and my parents were not known. I spoke to the office of adoptions in Haifa and they asked me to come there. In the office, they checked the material they had and said that they had no file related to my adoption. ‘There was a big mess [in the files, back then], go home’, they told me. I left the office and started crying, because I’d never find my parents”.
One of the people that helped Tzila get started in her search was Mr. Sampson Giat, the President of the Federation of Yemenite Jews in the United States. Mr. Giat went on cable-TV and spoke at length on the subject of the kidnapped children. He then asked anyone who thought they might have been one of the abducted children to contact him. Mrs. Levine contacted Mr. Giat, and told him of her case. It was Mr. Giat who assisted her in finding the necessary contacts in Israel and establishing contact with them.
By the 21st of August, 1997 it was reported that as many as fifteen families who had heard of Mrs. Levine’s case, came to Rammy Tsuberi, Tzila Levine’s lawyer, saying that Tsila Levine might be their stolen child.
One specific family that came to Tsuberi’s office on the 20th of that month was mentioned: Mrs. Margalit Omessei, and her children. Mrs. Levine and the Omessei family met each other at Mr. Tsuberi’s office and, upon noticing the amazing similarity between her daughter Yehudit and Tzila, Margalit Omessei was reported to “have kissed Tzila warmly, and said that there is an amazing similarity between Levine and her daughter Yehudit. Margalit requested that Levine have a blood-test, so they would be able to check whether she was, indeed, her daughter. Dr Hassan Hatib, a genetics expert in the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, took the blood sample in Tsuberi’s office. The results were expected to be announced within days. ‘Even if you are not my daughter, know that you will always be in my heart, and will always have a place in Israel’, Mrs. Omessei told Mrs. Levine.” (Yediot Acharonot, 21st August, 1997). One of the reasons that Mrs. Omessei suspected Tzila might be her daughter was after she had seen a picture in the newspaper of Tzila when she was an infant. It was then that Mrs. Omessei noticed the resemblance between Tzila, as a baby, and Mazal, her daughter.
On the 25th of August, 1997, the phone rang in the home of Dina Frazer, a childhood friend of Tzila Levine’s, where she was staying. On the line was Tzila’s lawyer, Rammy Tsuberi. “That’s it, the tests were a success. We found your mother”, he said. Tzila was in shock when she heard the news. She was trembling with excitement as she drank some water, and took some time to recover. She then began crying, “Yes! It’s my mother! My mother!….”
Dr. Hassan Hatib of the Hebrew University’s Genetics labs tested both blood samples and reported, “With all the blood samples, I conducted D.N.A. tests in the PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) method in ten different genetic signs that are Polymorphic in different groups. (He then lists the ten different signs.) The results of my tests were as follows: In every one of the ten genetic signs that were tested the daughter, Tzila received one aponeurosis from the mother, Margalit. Of course, every one of Margalit’s children received one aponuerosis from the mother, Margalit. In the statistic calculations that are used in the forensic labs around the world, the chance that Mrs. Tzila Levine is the daughter of Mrs. Margalit Omessei is 99.99143%.” The report was signed “Genetics – Hebrew University, Dr. Hassan Hatib”. After Hatib conducted these tests, he repeated tests in another four genetic signs, also showing that Levine and Omessei were, indeed, mother and daughter.
After this report, the entire Israeli public was interested in Mrs. Omessei and Mrs. Levine’s reunion. For months it was the most common topic in public. One broadcast on the Arutz 7 radio station reported:
“Tzlia Levine, from the Unites States, is the biological daughter of Mrs. Margalit Omessei. This is the result of DNA tests carried out in the Genetics Laboratory in Hebrew University in Jerusalem. The tests found that there is a perfect match between the DNA of Mrs. Levine and the Omessei family.
“She arrived in Israel with the express purpose of finding her original family; the Omessei family claimed that she is their daughter who disappeared from a Rosh HaAyin infirmary in 1949.
“Levine was brought up on Kibbutz Ein Hamifratz by adoptive parents over 50 years ago. She began to look for her biological parents after the death of her adoptive mother five years ago. Margalit Omessei said she had never given up hope of finding her lost daughter.
“In a related item, the public committee investigating the disappearance of the Yemenite children heard the testimony today of Avraham Buzi, who said that his eighteen month old daughter disappeared from a babies’ home in Pardes Hanna in 1949.
“He visited her one day and found her healthy, but the next day was told that she had died. He said that he never received a death certificate nor saw her grave.” (26th August, 1997).
The truth is that the results of the tests were a surprise even to Dr. Hatib. He was quoted as saying, “The chance that two people, with no family relation, will have the same genetic ID is nil. In this case, I set the genetic ID of the mother, Margalit and in Tzila’s genetic ID it was found that half of what she has comes from Margalit. This happens only in a case of a mother and daughter.
“I was shocked at the results, because to find the daughter, out of all the people in the world, that belongs to the right mother is like taking a shot in the dark. At first glance, I did not believe the results, which is why I conducted another series of tests. The results are of a reliable test, that meets international standards and that are acceptable in the forensic laboratories all over the world”.
The tragic story of the separation of Margalit and her daughter began in 1949, as Margalit testified to the Cohen committee on the 15th of November, 1995. Part of this testimony was recorded as follows:
Chairman Judge Yehuda Cohen: “You came to Israel in 1949, Rosh Hashana,” [Jewish New Year].
Margalit Omessei: “Right.”
Chairman Cohen: “With your girl…”
Margalit: “Right… my family”
Chairman Cohen: “You didn’t write here… did her father come too?”
Margalit: “No, I divorced him three months before I came to Israel.”
Chairman Cohen: “Did you notify the authorities you were divorced?”
Margalit: “Yes, he even didn’t know the girl…he was very ill back in Yemen.”
Chairman Cohen: “Did he ever come to Israel?”
Margalit: “Yes, almost the same month, but he came alone, and I came alone with my family”
Chairman Cohen: “And he showed no interest in the girl,”
Margalit: “Not at all, he was very ill”.
Chairman Cohen: “And then they took you to Rosh Ha-Ayin,”
Margalit: “I came to Rosh Ha-Ayin, camp Alef, on the day of Rosh HaShana.”
Chairman Cohen: “Was it a tent-camp?”
Chairman Cohen: “And they took the children to a baby-home?”
Margalit: “Children… right… when…”
Member of Committee, Brigadier David Maimon: “You had only Mazal, right?”
Margalit: “Only Mazal. “
Maimon: “Did you have any other children?”
Chairman Cohen: “I say they took all the children that arrived at that time were taken to the baby home, as was Mazal,”
Margalit: “The moment we reached the main road of Rosh-Ha-Ayin, the nurses came and snatched every child from their mother’s arms, with no explanation, without saying anything about where to and why, nothing. They took us to the bathing rooms, while they took the children to the baby homes, with Magen David [Adom], and we came out and asked where our children are, and got no answer. They then put us into tents, every mother crying for her child. I was in the same tent with two other mothers, and we started looking through the tents during the night to find for our children, until the morning when we heard our babies crying. We asked the guards, and went and saw screaming children, and mothers screaming in the babies’ home. So, we went back to the tents, and saw our children every morning, every day I got my baby, I was still nursing her, getting her in the morning, and feeding her. I did the same every afternoon, but all day every day we looked at our babies through the windows of the baby home.”
Chairman Cohen: “But she was then about a year and a half old,”
Margalit: “A year exactly”
Chairman Cohen: “A year?”
Margalit: “When she was taken from me. She was a year and a half old… when she disappeared, she was a year and a half old,”
Chairman Cohen: “You’re saying it took six months [from your arrival] until she disappeared,”
Margalit: “Yes, and I always gave her food, I gave her everything, and she wasn’t at all sick, except when her throat was a bit red, she suffered some diarrhea when her teeth were first coming in, but I gave her food three times a day, and the same nurse gave her to me every day, and one day….”
Chairman Cohen: “You’re saying that it was about at the end of a six-month period that she was taken to the hospital”
Margalit: “Yes, she was taken to the hospital, the one that wasn’t too far from the baby home, about 200 meters away from it”
Chairman Cohen: “In Rosh-HaAyin”
Margalit: “In Rosh-HaAyin… and I was still always at the window, looking at her. One day, I came to the hospital, and they let me into the hospital. This was the first time they let me into the hospital. Three doctors were standing next to me, asking me where her father is. I told them I came divorced, and I was just with my girl and my family. My child was in my hands then. After a while, they took her from me, and I left. After I left, my child was taken to the baby home. After a while, one day I came, as every other day, and she wasn’t there that morning. I fed her dinner the night before. She wasn’t there. I asked a nurse… she didn’t know. I told her that she gave her to me all the time, but she still didn’t know. She didn’t know. I went crazy. Nothing. I went to the mayor’s secretary, Bedihi, and I yelled there and cried, and he threw me out, and said he didn’t know. At the end he saw I was so disturbed by it that he sent me to the Petah-Tiqvah police station. The Petah-Tiqva police sent me to all kinds of places, to the Hospital, to WIZO, to everywhere they sent me… I went. I would work two or three days, save up the money for travel, and go. I never found her. Not at Bet-Lid, not at Ein-Shemer, and not at Rosh HaAyin, nowhere. Everywhere I went, I couldn’t find her. And her file at Rosh-HaAyin said she was still alive. After the Six-Day War [’67] I received a letter from the Petah-Tikvah Police, asking that I go to the station. I went, and the person there read the file and all. I told him my daughter wasn’t dead, she’s alive. He read the letter and told me that she went from the hospital to the baby-home, and from there they don’t know where she went. I told him I don’t know, but I’m not giving up, I want my girl from wherever she is. He told me that they should take all those nurses and doctors to prison, and that she’s still alive. From that time on, I got no answer….”
This testimony shows that even the police at the time were aware of the crimes being committed. Margalit’s testimony goes on as she describes cases of families she knows that had children taken as well.
The next time the committee heard Margalit Omessei was after her reunion with Tzila Levine. Tzila, Margalit and their family came to testify before the committee and members of the press.
Even foreign press took an interest in this case, so it was not surprising that when the official committee heard Mrs. Levine and Mrs. Omessei I was able to spot cameras and reporters from networks like ABC news, Fox news and Sky news, just to name a few.
Tzila’s attorney, Rammy Tzuberi, came to the committee, to represent Margalit and Tzila. The committee began by hearing a detailed account of Tzila’s search for her parents, and went on with the details of their reunion. Tzila also spoke of what her adopting parents had told her while they were still alive, about how they chose her from the many children in the doctor’s home; how she stood there in her crib, laughing and raising her arms up high, which is when her adopting father, Mordechai Rozenstock, decided to take her. The emotional tension in the room that day was overwhelming. None of the people present could help crying, walking over to congratulate Margalit and Tzila for being reunited after nearly fifty years, and hoping in their hearts to see more of these reunions. I was introduced to Margalit and Tzila by an elderly Yemenite I have been in close touch with regarding research. He’s worked on the case extensively himself, and wishes to remain anonymous. He’s known Margalit for a long time. Although this was the first time I met Margalit, I’ve seen her in almost every rally and convention on the topic since then.
However, at the time I was still afraid of cover-up methods being applied. I told a few people including individuals from Mishkan Ohalim, prominent journalists, and Sampson Giat’s wife, Jackie, who was also present, that I believed that since the committee had been involved in previous cover-ups, it would cover this up as well. I speculated that the committee would demand another DNA test, and even speculated it would appoint Dr. Yehuda Hiss, head of the Institute for Forensic Medicine in Abu-Kabir, to do these tests. I then said I believed they would wait for Tzila to return to the United States (I said maybe a month or so) to give the false results. I said that I believed they would lie about the results, saying that Tzila and Margalit were not mother and daughter after all. I was told that no-one would dare contradict such a solid, proven test as the one conducted by a prominent geneticist of the Hebrew University… “Noone will believe it.” I mentioned this possibility during a committee recess. The state attorney, Drora Nachmani-Roth then began to raise questions, after presenting a document showing that Tzila was adopted in November 1948, while Margalit Omessei immigrated to Israel in 1949.
This is despite the fact that Tzila was not able to find any documents regarding her adoption. Attorney Tzuberi attempted to answer this strange inconsistency by suggesting that Margalit could have made a mistake regarding the date of immigration, since she was then barely familiar with the non-Jewish calendar. Tzuberi had a hard time trying to suggest that the document was forged. So many other documents were forged at the time, such as death certificates, birth certificates, and many more. In the first article in this series, I wrote of a cache of pre-signed blank birth and death certificates found by a government official, Yehudit Hivner. According to Ms. Hivner’s testimony, these documents contained no dates, or any entries other than a signature and a stamp. This would allow the filling in of any and all details about a child, even a falsified birth date.
On September 14th 1997 Tzila Levine returned to her family in the United States. It was less than a month later, on the 9th of October 1997, that I woke up to hear on the radio how the worst of my predictions had come true, almost word-for-word.
Kol Israel Radio reported that morning:
“Yemenite born Tzila Levine is not the lost daughter of Margalit Omessei. New DNA tests prove there is no common genetic pattern between the two. Medical experts say the genetic tests carried out at the Abu Kabir Forensic Institute are the newest techniques and refute earlier results.”
Attorney Tzuberi made sure to let the public know of Dr. Hiss’ breach of agreement. Hiss and the family of Omessei and Levine had a signed agreement that the results of the testing will be given only to Tzuberi and the family. However, Tzuberi got no notice of the results, and only found out about them by reading them in the media after they were publicized by the spokesman for the Abu Kabir Institute.
Arutz 7 Radio reported:
“Tzila Levine, who claims she is the daughter of Yemenite Jew Margalit Omessei, but separated from her fifty years ago while a baby, has questioned the validity of Ministry of Health tests which are said to have proved she is not Margalit’s daughter after all. An earlier DNA test had said that she was.
“‘I was disappointed with the results’ Tzila told radio station Arutz 7 today, “but not at all surprised. It was made clear to us that the methodology used by this institute would be able to be interpreted differently by different chemists, and we therefore asked that testing procedure be stopped.
“Tzila said the Institute which tested her broke a signed agreement not to publicize the results and that if they could not keep their word, she had no reason to believe in the accuracy of the tests.
“She also said she did not trust the Ministry of Health which stood by as hundreds of children ‘disappeared’ fifty years ago…. I rather believe the results of the previous testing, which was carried out twice, and which found that we are in fact mother and daughter.’
“Tzila said that after spending a total of nine days together, both she and Margalit were absolutely certain they were mother and daughter.”
On that day, I was contacted by a few journalists, amazed by the accuracy of my “prediction”. Frankly, so was I. I was even right about the time I said they’d publicize the results.
On 22nd November, 1997, an article was published in the Maariv Israeli mainstream newspaper. This article was written by Michal Kapra, and was based on an interview with Dr. Hassan Hatib, still standing by the results of his first tests. A few important details were given in this article. One, that after the results of Dr. Hiss’ tests, Hatib conducted another series of tests, using the blood from the same samples that Hiss used in the labs of the Forensic Institute. These tests showed again, that Margalit Omessei and Tzila Levine are, indeed, mother and daughter.
Another important fact is that Dr. Hatib was not able to receive Hiss’ results from the Institute. The results were never shown to anyone, and only a final conclusion was issued by the Institute. Never were the test results shown to Dr. Hatib, to attorney Tzuberi, to the government committee… to no one.
One other important thing that Hatib mentioned is that Dr. Hiss used a mitochondrial DNA test, while he himself used chromosomichal DNA. Hatib mentions that there is a scientific problem dealing with mitochondrial DNA, since it is unstable and mutates over the years, which is why it’s not used in tests to determine family relation. He also mentions that this DNA goes through immense changes after the age of 40. In this article, Hatib is backed up on this point by Professor Adam Friedman, of the Haddassa Ein-Karem Hospital. Professor Friedman is considered by many to be the most prominent geneticist in the State of Israel. Professor Friedman also says that the chromosomichal DNA tests are far more reliable. He mentions the problems that arise with the changes that occur in mitochondrial DNA.
Later on, in response to this, a claim was issued by the Forensic labs that they then conducted a second series of tests, in chromosomichal DNA, which showed again, that Mrs. Levine and Mrs. Omessei are not mother and daughter. This is not to say they took another blood sample for these tests, or that these results were publicized either. It is crucial to remember that no records or results of the tests were given to anyone by the Forensic labs… just their final conclusion.
Margalit Omessei and Tzila Levine are convinced they are mother and daughter, as is the rest of their family. This became most clear to me after I paid a visit to Margalit last month. I also found out from Margalit that Tzila is now writing a book on the story of her reunion with her family.
However, even more importantly, Sampson Giat is continuing his efforts to reunite more families of the stolen children. He has issued many letters and press releases, as well as interviews to TV networks, and is doing what he can to reunite as many families as possible. Mr. Giat has conducted the most extensive and professional work on this issue. If anyone would like to contact Sampson Giat, to assist him, to receive information, or just to show support for the cause, he can be contacted at:
305 Seventh Avenue, 11th Floor New York, NY 10001
Tel/Fax: (212) 633-8453
Or by Email, at YemFed@AOL.com
E-mail of author: firstname.lastname@example.org