The Israeli Cabinet on Monday approved a proposal to recognize the “Yemenite, Mizrahi and Balkan children affair,” from the early years of the state, and to provide financial compensation to the families who were hurt, the Prime Minister’s Office announced in a statement.
The “children affair” refers to the disappearance of an estimated 1,500-5,000 babies and toddlers of new immigrants who arrived in Israel between 1948 and 1954. The majority of these hailed from Yemen, along with considerable numbers from the Balkans and Middle Eastern and North African countries of Iraq, Morocco, Tunisia and Libya. The latter Jews are known as “Mizrahim.”
According to their claims over the decades, the above parents were told by Israeli authorities that their babies had died in childbirth or subsequently, yet were given no documentation of the deaths or places of burial. This aroused suspicion that the children had been taken to give to couples of European origin—Ashkenazim—particularly Holocaust survivors.
“This is among the most painful affairs in the history of the State of Israel,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “The time has come for the families whose infants were taken from them to receive recognition by the state and government of Israel, and financial compensation, as well.”
Netanyahu also stated that compensation “will not atone for the terrible suffering that the families went through and are going through,” which he called “too great to bear,” adding that he has asked the education minister to include the Yemenite children affair in the school system’s textbooks.
The compensation approved by the Cabinet, according to the PMO, totals 162 million shekels ($50 million), to be allocated as follows: 150,000 shekels ($45,977 ) to family members of a child whose death, or cause of death, was not revealed in real time—or whose place of burial was never located or was done so after a long delay. And up to 200,000 shekels ($61,300) to family members the fate of whose child is determined to be unknown.
The PMO stated, as well, that the Cabinet additionally approved that family members determined by one of the three commissions that dealt with the affair—the committee of inquiry on revealing the Yemenite children; the committee on clarifying the fate of the missing Yemenite children; and the state commission of inquiry on the disappearance of Yemenite immigrant children from 1948-1954—to have a child who died or whose fate is unknown will be able to file for the compensation during June-November 2021.