A government-appointed committee investigating the fate of hundreds of Yemenite children who disappeared in Israel during the 1950s has concluded that most of the children died of disease.
The children had been part of a massive airlift that brought tens of thousands of Yemenite Jews to Israel from 1948 to 1950.
Some leaders in the Yemenite community have alleged that Israel and abroad.
The committee, which conducted a six-year inquiry headed by retired Judge Moshe Shalgi, was formed amid pressure from the Yemenite community, which was unsatisfied with the outcome of a similar commission in 1967.
In March, about 10 heavily armed members of a Yemenite sect led by Rabbi Uzi Meshulam holed themselves up in a fortified house near Tel Aviv, protesting what they described as the “disappearance and sale of thousands of Yemenite children.” They were dispersed following a massive police operation, and several sect members were arrested in May.
In its 250-page report issued on Monday, the committee said no evidence was found to substantiate any of the allegations against the government.
The committee investigated 505 cases. In all but 65, documents were found confirming the children’s deaths, Shalgi said.
Pointing to the poor sanitary conditions that prevailed in immigrant camps at the time, Shalgi suggested that the 65 other children probably also died of illness.
“We didn’t find any clue for criminal action or improper action towards the children through our investigations,” he said.
One committee member took issue with the committee’s findings and refused to sign it.
Yosef Yigal, whose sister Esther disappeared shortly after his family arrived in Israel, criticized the committee for not questioning the authenticity of the documents or examining any potential criminal angles.
After receiving the report, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin described the disputed disappearances as “one of the most painful periods in the history of the State of Israel.”