Avraham Ovadia was born in Shagadra, Yemen, in 1910. He came to Israel alone in 1926 and lived in Jerusalem, until he moved to Kiryat Tivon in 1952.
A professional construction worker, active in the Histadrut (Workers' Union), he was involved in the absorption of Yemenite immigrants. In 1985, he published his memoirs under the title "Paths of Yemen and Zion" and gave testimony in 1996 to the State Commission of Inquiry.
Excerpts from his testimony before the State Commission of Inquiry (the numbers of the items are edited out):
"With the immigration to Israel growing in early 1949, I was asked to go to the Yemenite immigrant camps in Rosh HaAyin, to help with the absorption of this immigration wave, being a speaker of Yemenite Arabic.
Upon arrival at “Rosh Ha'Ayin" Camp A I was shocked by what I saw and heard of the suffering of the Yemenites there. I arrived while the kidnappings of children were at their peak. Parents were constantly complaining to me about their children being kidnapped. I did not know what to do.
I was acquainted with Giora Yoseftal and David Ben-Gurion from my time in the Hagana, when we used to meet at Yitzhak Ben-Zvi's house every other week. I wrote Giora about the abduction of children, he never replied. I think the letter did not reach him. I wrote to him about the abductions and the broken people (the parents), and that this was going on everywhere, in Atlit, in Ein Shemer, Pardes Hana, not just in Rosh Ha'Ain. I asked how was this possible, and remarked that I came to the conclusion that a group of people was involved and it was all planned. [In a correction further in the testimony, he notes that the letter was written when he was already the manager of “Rosh Ha'Ayin C” camp[.
At the time I worked at “Rosh Ha'ayin A” camp. I had a camp manager - David Chen (Jamil), and there was another Bulgarian manager in the camp, whose name I don't remember. Jamil is now living in America for many years, he was a scoundrel [handwritten correction - "dishonest" with Ovadia's signature]. I said to him how can he permit children to be kidnapped like that, and he just smiled and laughed.
I went to Camp B, to the manager, to the late Yosef Badichi, the manager. His response was "It's good that they do this. those who are taken, will have good lives, get an education, become doctors, attorneys, etc." I shall never forget these things.
I saw that they were all scoundrels so I left the camp.
It is imperative to locate through the archives those who were employed there by the Jewish Agency as doctors, nurses, drivers. It is difficult to locate them today because many have grown old or passed away, and I also heard that the Jewish Agency claims the archive of the department of absorption was burned down, gone. It is very important that the investigative committee locate them.
Dozens of parents would come to me in tears because their child was kidnapped. Their tragedy and the trouble with the lost children contributed to my decision to leave the camp, after serving there for about a year. I could not accept the kidnapping of children with no action taken against it.
The abductions occurred in Camps A and B. Later I was asked to manage Camp C, which was constructed later in Rosh Ha'Ayin, and there I recruited a good team that I could trust as I trust myself and gave instructions not to release any driver until I verified with the parents that their child had not taken and kidnapped.
Because of the abductions there was much trouble with the police in camps A and B. In Camp C I had no such problems and no police."
"Everything is preserved and engraved in my memory, including the subject of the kidnapping of the children, the intensity of which is affecting me to this day, and gives me no rest."
"It was an organized crime which involved doctors, nurses, and drivers, and any smart guy who could do it. This, as I said, happened in Atlit as well and in Pardes-Hana. I read what Yigal Mashiach wrote in the newspaper and it is true."
From the book "Paths of Yemen and Zion" (p. 170-171):
"During the time I worked in Camp A, many children were kidnapped, aged one year to six months old, one week old and two weeks.
It was a shocking sight to see parents looking for their children, who were taken from them with the pretext that they were "sick" and might die. Those innocent people, who trusted the "kind-hearted" Jews to care for their children’s health, handed them over and it did not occur to them that they might not see them ever again.
This gang was well organized. As soon as the immigrants got off the plane, especially at night, a mayhem was intentionally created by the travel contractors, who took the immigrants from the airport to the camps, in collusion with members of “Magen David Adom” and others. The innocent mothers gave up their beloved children, in the hope and faith that they would be returned to them.
This organization included various parties: The doctor, the nurse, the driver and the person who bought the poor creature. Every day the miserable women would come weeping causing all their listeners to weep with them. Each would shout: Where is my son? Where is my daughter? For some of them it was a first childbirth, and they did not get a chance to breastfeed. The father would shout: How can it be that Jews [kidnap] Jewish children?
The camp workers had no possibility, nor ability to help these unfortunates, because this was done outside the camp, on the way from the airport to the camp. The women arrived without the children, and those who received the children, disappeared with their loot to their homes. This was one of the tragedies that clouded the joy of the redeemers and the redeemed.
We made great efforts to unravel the mystery and failed. When we would ask the “Magen David Adom” drivers, what is going on they would shrug and claim that they had no idea. We didn't get help from the police either, and the Jewish Agency was indifferent. Even the institutions of the Yemenite Association that supposedly represented the community, did not achieve anything and the matter remains unsolved to this day.
In view of the above situation, we established a method for meeting the immigrants upon arrival from the airport. Before they even got off the vehicles, we asked if their children were with them and delayed the drivers until we knew if they had sick children and where they were taken, especially those who arrived at night. Only when it was clear that all was well did we release the driver."
Avraham Ovadia's testimony at the State Commission of Inquiry (Hebrew):
Every day the miserable women would come weeping causing all their listeners to weep with them. Each would shout: Where is my son? Where is my daughter? For some of them it was a first childbirth, and they did not get a chance to breastfeed. The father would shout: How can it be that Jews [kidnap] Jewish children?
When we would ask the “Magen David Adom” drivers, what is going on they would shrug and claim that they had no idea. We didn't get help from the police either, and the Jewish Agency was indifferent. Even the institutions of the Yemenite Association that supposedly represented the community, did not achieve anything and the matter remains unsolved to this day.