JERUSALEM, Aug. 25 (JTA) — The dramatic reunion of an Israeli Yemenite woman with her biological mother has fueled allegations by members of the Yemenite community that hundreds of children were kidnapped and sold for illegal adoption during the early years of the Jewish state. The woman, 49-year-old Tzila Levine, was reunited Monday with her biological mother, Margalit Omassi, after DNA testing confirmed that Levine was Omassi’s daughter. The reunion between Levine, her mother and other members of her biological family took place at the office of an Israeli lawyer who collected inquiries from Israeli families after the media published reports about Levine’s search for her biological relatives. Levine, who was raised on a kibbutz and now lives in Sacramento, Calif., arrived in Israel a week ago when it appeared that her search was nearing an end. “I feel like someone turned on all these lights in my heart,” Levine said during the emotional reunion. “I know from experience, people like me, who don’t know who their biological family is, even if they have other relationships, are walking around in shock for their entire lives.” Levine explained that she could not find any documentation when she began looking for her biological parents. She knew only that her adoptive parents, who did not have any other children, had told her that they had adopted her from a Haifa doctor. Levine’s efforts to locate her family were covered by the Israeli media and drew the attention of Yemenite families whose children disappeared in the late 1940s and early 1950s. After dozens of the families underwent DNA testing, the genetics laboratory at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem linked Levine with Omassi. The lab test report indicated that it was 99.99143 percent certain that Omassi was Levine’s mother. Omassi said that Sa’ada — as she had named her daughter — was five months old when she disappeared from a children’s clinic in Rosh Ha’ayin in 1948. Omassi added that she never abandoned her efforts to find her daughter. “At night, I would dream about a sea of babies and looking for mine to appear,” Omassi told reporters. “I never stopped looking, for 50 years.” Between the embraces and tears, the two women searched each other for any physical resemblances to confirm what the blood tests had shown. Levine said she hoped to bring her own children to meet Omassi. The two said their next mission would be to determine how Levine was taken from the children’s clinic and put up for adoption. Members of Israel’s Yemenite community have charged for years that hundreds of babies said to be dead had actually been given to adoptive parents of European descent. Tales of missing children are so widespread in Israel’s Yemenite community that two government commissions have investigated the allegations. The panels attributed the disappearances to the chaos of mass immigration in the late 1940s and early 1950s. The commissions found no wrongdoing on the part of Israeli authorities or medical officials in the transit camps where the Yemenite immigrants were housed during those years. The authorities in charge of the camps have stated that many of the children who arrived at the camps were sick and later died. The commissions also concluded that cultural misunderstandings between the staff and the new immigrants could have contributed to numerous mix-ups. Last week, Israeli investigators who opened four graves of Yemenite babies found three empty — and some bone remains in the fourth. But the exhumations were not conclusive, according to a forensic examiner who was quoted as saying that it could not be known that the other graves failed to contain any bones until a thorough examination had been conducted.
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