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Health Ministry’s test casts doubt on Yemeni family’s claim

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JERUSALEM, Oct. 9 (JTA) – After an Israeli woman from Yemen was reunited with her biological mother in August, newly performed genetic tests have cast doubt over whether the two women are related. Tests performed this week by Israel’s Ministry of Health refute earlier DNA tests showing that Tzila Levine is the long-lost daughter of Margalit Omassi, who immigrated to Israel from Yemen in the late 1940s. Tests performed earlier this summer by Hebrew University geneticist Hasan Khatib reportedly showed – with 99.9 percent certainty – that the two are mother and daughter. The well-publicized reunion of Levine and Omassi had 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. Levine, 49, who currently lives in California, was adopted by an Ashkenazi kibbutz couple as an infant. Convinced that she was one of the “missing Yemenite children,” she made an all-out search for her birth parents. Omassi, whose infant daughter disappeared under mysterious circumstances 48 years ago, read about Levine in an Israeli newspaper and a meeting was arranged. While the Ministry of Health says that its test on mitochondrial DNA is the most sophisticated in the world, geneticist Khatib stands by his results. 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. The ministry’s results will be presented to the Cohen Commission, which has been investigating the allegations. Meanwhile, both Levine and Omassi rejected the latest genetic tests, telling reporters that they are indeed mother and daughter. Rami Tzuberi, Levine’s lawyer, told reporters that he had been unaware of any new DNA tests, and that the ministry had no right to publicize confidential medical information. A ministry geneticist interviewed on Israel Radio denied that his lab had released the findings, but said that “the family” had ordered the latest test.

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