According to a letter submitted before a state commission of inquiry into the disappearance of Yemenite children in the 1950s, health officials were aware of instances in which some of the children did not return to their parents after receiving medical treatment.
The letter, dated April 1950, was uncovered in the archives of the Jewish Agency for Israel and submitted as evidence by a university researcher who appeared this week before the commission in Jerusalem.
The letter was signed by Dr. M. Lichtig, the head of the hospitals department in the Health Ministry and was distributed to state hospitals at the time.
“There have been instances in which children were released from hospital and did not return to their parents. Apparently, they were found by people seeking to adopt,” the letter said.
“The bereaved parents searched for their children, and there is no need to explain and stress that we must make every effort to ensure that such incidents do not repeat themselves.”
In presenting the letter before the panel, Dr. Dov Levitan of Bar-Ilan University said that given the senior level of the letter’s author, other high- ranking officials, such as the health minister, must have been aware of the situation.
But just the same, Levitan said he did not think that hundreds of Yemenite children were involved – as the Yemenite community has alleged. He thought that there were only a few cases.
In his first appearance before the panel two weeks ago, Levitan claimed that in 1986, them-Prime Minister Shimon Peres and other government officials had rejected an appeal to establish a state commission of inquiry into the disappearance of the Yemenite children.
Levitan also said he had been advised by a number of “source close to the current government” to stick to the academic aspects of the case and not to mention any political figures by name.
During a closed-door session Sunday, Levitan also presented papers documenting what he said were efforts in the 1960s by the Mossad, Israel’s foreign intelligence agency, to locate children who many have been smuggled out of the country for adoption.
Levitan said the Mossad investigation was superficial, but added that his own inquiry into the allegations indicated that no children had been smuggled abroad.
“Children were not sold and not smuggled,” he said. “That is a myth.”