In Part Seven of this series, you read about Yosef Aharon Hammami and his two wives, and how one child was stolen from each. In the last part, you read about the son taken from his wife, Mazal. His other son was taken from his wife, Kadia, who has since passed away.
The story of the other son is told by Hammami’s daughter, Shosh Philo, living in Tel Aviv. She was quoted as saying: “I was four years old then, when my parents immigrated to Israel, and lived in the immigration camp in Znoach. The nurses found that my brother, who was almost a year old then, would suck two fingers in a ‘strange’ way: he would suck his middle and ring fingers, together, so they told us that they were taking him for treatment. He was sent far away, and they brought him to my parents, sometimes. They bandaged his fingers, so that he would get used to not sucking them that way.
“One day, they told us he had died. My parents could not understand how such a healthy child could just die, and they told them that, since he wanted to suck his fingers, but could not (because of the bandages), he suffered, and died… of course, they brought us no body, and no funeral.
“My parents were naive and could not believe they were being lied to. But a few years later, when the other cases became known, my mother would say sadly: ‘Too bad we were naive. If it would happen today, I would go with him, and stay by him all the time’.” This story, too, was reported in the “Yom LeYom” newspaper.
An interesting report appeared in the “Makor Rishon” newspaper of the 12th of December, 1997. In this report, the journalists Zeev Sharon, and Pini Ben-Or use recorded testimony of a man who was an ambulance driver back then, and has since passed away.
According to the report, there was a letter sent in 1953, by an attorney, Shlomo Perles, to the ambulance driver, who also reported he would drive an ambulance that took infants from a hospital, in the Tel Aviv area, to the WIZO institute, where they were given up for adoption.
The report also speaks of how the ambulance driver chose a child and adopted him. In the letter, Perles offers the driver an opportunity to join an endeavor he is working on, to acquire birth certificates from the government that do not mention the fact of a child’s adoption and look like normal birth certificates, and which would show the adoptive parents as the birth parents. The same article reports the story of Tova Barka, a resident of Tel Aviv, in which she reports that she was adopted at the age of three months and knew nothing of her adoption until she was twelve years old. She says that when she reached that age “… my aunt came to our house, and wanted to speak with me. And so, in the presence of my adopting parents, she told me I had been adopted. I was in shock.
“According to my adopting mother, my biological mother passed away, right after my birth, and they adopted me. I suppose that not even they knew the truth, and were probably told this story. A few years before her death, my adopting mother moved to a new home. While moving her belongings, I opened one of the bags, and found the court order referring to my adoption. It was issued when I was eight, and I found my birth certificate as well.” It was then that Barka realised that she was, in fact, according to the documentation, nonexistent for eight years. She continued, “My adopting mother, who did not deny the validity of the document, claimed she knew nothing about my biological parents, but she mentioned that she did know I was of Yemenite origin.
“When I was thirty eight years old, I decided to go to the ‘Sherut LeMaan Hayeled’ (“The Service in Favor of the Child”) building, on Ibn Gabirol St., in Tel Aviv, in hope of finding my origins, which were yet unknown to me. The social worker in the building [who’s name was not reported by “Makor Rishon”], gave me my mother’s biological name [also not reported], who was born, according to the social worker, in 1921, and immigrated to Israel in 1945. According to the social worker, the documents she was looking at show that my biological mother arrived in Israel with no possessions, no family, or relatives. The social worker also told me that the rest of the facts in the document were blurred, and she could not understand what was written. Afterwards, she said that the information was actually classified. I was shocked. I didn’t know what to do or say. I tried calling her on the phone a few times to get her to search for more details. But she told me that she already told me all she knew.
Back then, after I found out I was an adopted child, I would cry during the nights… I very much wanted to know if I had any biological relatives, maybe even brothers or sisters. I didn’t want to upset my adopting parents, so I would only cry at nights, when I was alone. Up to this very day – this entire issue won’t give me rest. I want to know who I am, where I came from, who my family is, and what my roots are. I am already a grandmother, and still cry about this.”
According to Israeli law, an adopted person has the right to look at their personal file, in the presence of a social worker. The fact that so much of the information was classified is baffling, at the least.
Another horrifying story is that of Shlomo and Sarah Adani, who live in Immanuel. The story was told to Yehuda Israelov and Shmuel Amrani, of the “Yom LeYom” newspaper, by their daughter-in-law, Miriam Adani, from Bayit-Vagan, a neighborhood in Jerusalem.
“My mother-in-law, Sarah, arrived in Israel, with her baby daughter, Miriam, then eleven months old. Miriam was highly developed for her age. She was already saying ‘Mom’, and even walking a little.
“Sarah’s husband was not yet in Israel. She was taken to the Rosh HaAyin immigration camp, and they immediately took her baby from her.
“Miriam was still during nursing stage. They took the baby to the baby ward, in Tzriffin. Only once every three weeks did they take the mothers, in a truck, to see their babies, beyond glass, without even allowing any physical contact!
“Every once in a while, when the truck that took them arrived, they would announce the names of the children that died. One day, they announced that Miriam Adani had died. Sarah, the mother, tried to ask for details, and was told that they had buried the child, but showed her no grave.
“A few days later, her husband, Shlomo, arrived, and they tried to build their life anew, but the tragedy repeated itself, and even worse than before. Sarah gave birth to a healthy child, that weighed 4 kilograms, at his time of birth. Everyone congratulated her, and she started taking care of him, and even nursing him, after she gave birth.
“Not many hours passed, when the doctor arrived. He slapped the child’s mother strongly, and told her: ‘You are a bad girl. You suffocated your baby at the time of birth’. The exhausted mother was in shock: ‘I was nursing him only a few moments ago, he was healthy?’, but no one paid attention to her tears.
“Her husband, who was at the hospital that day, was in shock, as well. It was only that morning that they congratulated him, for the birth of his son, and what do they mean, to tell him he died at the time of birth? He asked to see the body, and they only told him: ‘We buried him’. On the same day!
“Every Sabbath and Holiday, for their entire lives, they mention the children that were stolen. My father-in-law has fought fiercely, to be sure his children receive a Jewish, religious education, and he is one of the few who were able to do it as well as he did, but he is in terrible pain for not knowing how his other children were raised.
Did they even circumcise his son? Was he raised as a Jew? The pain is too much to bear”.
The next story in the article is that of Nanjan Cahani, an immigrant from Persia, who recalls how her daughter, Leah, was stolen from her in the hospital in Haifa. Nanjan is certain her child is still alive.
It was only recently that the members of the family received a death certificate, written by hand, from the office of population records, in the Ministry of Interior. The article also mentions that the same office sent Leah’s sister, Mali, a document that states Leah ceased to be an Israeli citizen in July of 1963.
Nanjan, Leah’s mother, recalls a story from a whole new angle, where she was even offered an opportunity to sell her children.
After Nanjan immigrated from Persia, she gave birth to twins, a boy and girl, in the Rambam Hospital in Haifa. The son’s name is Shmuel, and Leah is the daughter, who was stolen. Immediately after the birth, according to Nanjan, the doctor asked to buy one of the children for a certain amount of money. She says that “The doctor told the nurses he would have more of a chance when asking for the daughter, since it seems I was more attached to Shmuel. When I refused, the doctor told me: ‘But, you have other children’.
A few days after I gave birth, I returned home with my twin children. Two weeks later, nurses from the hospital came to my home, and told me that they need to return Leah to the hospital because she has a bruise on her ankle, and if she dies it will be my own fault. My husband and I would go visit Leah in the hospital every day. One day, when I was ill, my husband went alone, only to be told that Leah had died. They refused to allow him to see her. I am convinced that Leah is still alive. I will continue to believe so, until the day I die, and will continue to hope that, someday, I will see her. The death certificate that they sent us now does not change a thing”.
It appears that many of the families who have suffered similar atrocities have exactly the same hopes and expectations… they want to see their lost family members. The men and women that they have not seen for decades, ever since they were infants. They want to meet them, to hear from them, to hear where life has taken them, where they grew up, what they do today… they want contact, however brief. The present situation makes that too much to ask, for most of the families. Their grief still remains.