Menu JTA Search

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

SIGN UP FOR THE JTA DAILY BRIEFING

JERUSALEM, Oct. 12 (JTA) — After an Israeli woman from Yemen was reunited with her biological daughter 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. Levine rejected the ministry’s findings and vowed to sue the Health Ministry for breach of confidentiality. “We will take them to court,” Levine said in a telephone interview from her home in Sacramento, Calif. Levine said she had signed an agreement with the ministry that its test results would be kept in absolute confidence and shown only to the family. 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. The government tests directly contradict tests performed earlier this summer by Hebrew University geneticist Hasan Khatib which 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 as an infant by an Ashkenazi couple living on a kibbutz. 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. (JTA correspondent Tom Tugend in Los Angeles contributed to this report.)

NEXT STORY