Miriam Shuker was born in January 1950, at the transit camp of Rosh Ha'Ayin, to David and Sham'a Shuker, a pair of immigrants from Yemen. When she was three months old she was sick and was hospitalized. She was transferred between several hospitals in Israel and finally her traces were lost. Her father, David Shuker, who traveled in public transport across many places searching for her, was told that she was dead. The father continued to receive for years letters concerning tax payments and the military draft for his daughter, Miriam. Shuker continued his search and did not give up, he wrote letters to government offices and filed police complaints, he came to the first commission of inquiry (Minkowski) and gave witness there, but he left empty-handed. After several years, a lawyer that he hired managed to come by secret protocols of the inquiry commission and found out the results of the investigation - Miriam Shuker was alive and was with an adoptive family in Israel.
Adina (Miriam's new name) was already a young mother with small children when she received an urgent phone from the Children's Rights Office demanding that she speak with her biological father and brothers. Up until then, Adina knew very little of her identity. She was grew up in Moshav Tzur Moshe, as a single child to parents of Hungarian descent. These parents said they had had a Bulgarian friend from the Dajani (Tzahalon) Hospital in Jaffa, who offered them to come with him to a nursery in the transit camp of Rosh Ha'Ayin, in order to adopt a baby. According to Adina, the adopting parents checked with the nurses and the medical staff at the place, and they were told that she was indeed without parents and slated to be adopted. Adina, after she received the telephone call, agreed to a meet-up, and saw that her old family was one of warm and incredible people. She kept in touch with them but she preferred to keep their connection under low profile while her adopting parents were alive. After their death, the connection between Adina and the Shuker family, her biological family, grew and strengthened, and today she is closely connected to her sister Margalit. Of her side, her sister Margalit recalls that even on the day when she was married, her father did not forget his first daughter and told her before the marriage ceremony: "No joy is complete without Miriam."
In 1996, the journalist Yigal Mashiah wrote a series of articles about the abductions. In one them, he had a lengthy interview with Miriam (Adina) Shuker:
"This week, two women who were born to parents of Yemenite descent and were taken from them in 1948-1950, agreed to reveal their stories. One of them was adopted through WIZO, according to her adoptive mother. The other tells of a merciful doctor who heard about her parents hardships and arranged for them to have a child from Rosh Ha'Ayin. The father who searched for his daughter for years was told by the Bahlul-Minkowski Commission that the adoption process was legal. Perhaps.
Adina, the missing sister: "I did not know I was kidnapped. I did not know my biological father, David Shuker, searched for me all of these years. I did not know anything."
Are there dozens or hundreds more children, adopted legally after being taken from their parents in illegal ways? Two weeks ago the Attorney General gave the inquiry commission power to review thousands of confidential adoption cases from these years. Maybe there the answer will be found.
A Wonderful Mother
Adina (Miriam Shuker) at age twelve, when her adopting mother told her the secret: "Imagine, a girl growing up knowing that her mother had abandoned her."
Esther Magid, her biological sister, joined the second meeting that day. They sit next to each other in Miriam Shuker's (Adina's) spacious guest room. In the background there is the wide window, the clean neighborhood outside and the giant television screen in the middle of the living room, maybe an ironic comment on life stories which are more fantastic than everything the camera could put on a screen. The sisters are quite similar, but their behaviors are different. It is hard to stop Esther: she cries when she speaks of the meeting eight years ago, the images are vivid, her language is full of pathos, everything is re-awoken in the conversation.
Adina, the missing sister, is more reserved. Here and there she tones down the pathos. She of all people, the victim of the kidnapping years ago, sounds like someone who comes to write sober footnotes on this painful story. When I entered her house in the morning she told me immediately about her meeting with her adopting mother, the previous evening. The mother agreed with her decision to go public and encouraged her. "I think all of this Affair is not just a private affair, between me and myself, this story needs to be told, this is the business of all the Jewish people. This is an awful historic chapter that needs to be passed on. This is why we decided, me and my mother, that it is better to go public. She was here yesterday evening."
Three months ago you gave two interviews. Wasn't that exposure?
"Not in relation to my adoptive mother. With Shosh Madmoni from 'Yediot' I talked at a lawyer's. I was very reserved, I was afraid to give personal details. In the interview with Shelly Yahimovich at the radio I asked for my voice to be distorted".
"I was afraid that my adoptive mother would recognize the voice. Eight years have passed since I discovered my biological family and I'm still trying to protect her. She's my mother. She was a wonderful mother. The best, I was afraid that she would be hurt. As fate would have it, my mother listens to the broadcast, and despite the distortion she recognizes me."
How did she respond?
"It was hard, but she is a wonderful woman. You need to understand, I hid that discovery from her eight years out of concern. And suddenly she discovers I'm closely connected to my second family. It wasn't easy. She raised me. She was my mother in all respects."
"It turned out wonderfully. This is why I call on all adoptees to expose themselves, and find their biological family. Not in order to settle accounts, punish someone, or take revenge, God forbid. I call on the adoptees to expose themselves for the sake of both sides. The world of the biological parents will be filled when they will meet with the children. This is a mitzvah. Just for the meeting itself, never mind all the rest. Life is different afterwards, fuller."
In what respect?
"Today I have a family too. My twelve-year old daughter discovered this issue only two months ago. She expressed it in the most accurate way: "Now I have cousins", she tells me. After I discovered my biological family, a very close bond was created between us, I would come to visit them with my small daughter, she would play with her cousins like with friends. I didn't tell her they were family, I was afraid of coping with it. One day we visited my brother, and his little daughter tells my daughter that her mother is adopted. We needed to take care of it immediately."
How did she respond?
"That's the whole thing. She responded with lots of joy. Her family was suddenly extended."
And the boy?
"It was different for him. His bond with my adoptive father, his grandfather, was very deep. His bond with my new family is more reserved. He treats them like good friends, not like family. By the way, we named both my young boy and daughter after my adoptive parents."
Maybe we'll return to you now, the adoptive daughter who discovered biological parents. How did it affect your relations with your adopting parents?
"Everything changed. Suddenly I realized what they went through all of these years. I told you, they were the most wonderful parents. Suddenly I've felt I needed to make it up to them, to spoil them more, to shield them. Lots of sudden gratitude and lots of guilt. Eight years I didn't expose before my biological family before my adopting parents, because of feelings of guilt and betrayal. When I discovered my biological parents my adoptive father was very sick. He died a year ago, and I was afraid that the discovery would worsen his situation."
Weren't you angry at them?
"At my adopting parents? Not even the slightest. I grew up with a strong anger towards my biological mother who abandoned me. I never understood why and how it was possible. My adopting mother revealed this secret to me when I was twelve. Imagine, a girl growing up knowing that her mother had abandoned her. Imagine what that does to the psyche and to development. When I found my biological mother I discovered that this was not the true story. There was no story of neglect or abandonment. It was a story of deception. And for this reason too, I recommend to all the adopted children to try and reveal themselves, to find their biological family, so that they won't nurture a misplaced anger. Most of the children were not abandoned."
And you have no anger towards the adoptive parents?
"No anger at all. My mother always claimed she did nothing illegal. My parents told me they published an ad in one of the newspapers about their intent to adopt me, in which they ask any one who has any claims to approach them."
An ad in a newspaper in 1950, that new immigrants from Yemen in a transit camp in Rosh Ha'Ayin are supposed to read and express their objections to afterwards. Isn't someone playing innocent here?
"Perhaps. But that's what they had been told to do."
Who told them?
"I don't know exactly. They lived in Moshav Tzur Moshe. Innocent farmers. Good people. Ten years they tried to have a child and they didn't succeed. And then they went to one physician in Jaffa. The physician told them that he heard of an abandoned girl left in a hospital in Rosh Ha'Ayin."
That's what he said? A girl abandoned in an hospital in Rosh Ha'Ayin?
"Yes, according to the stories my mother told me. The doctor was the middleman. My mother didn't know him personally. That's all I know. I didn't know I was kidnapped, I didn't know my biological father, David Shuker, was searching for me all these years. I didn't know anything. One day, eight years ago, Ella Balas from the Ministry of Welfare called me: "You have a father and a mother." Imagine that.
And the meeting?
"What about the meeting? Imagine what I went through before: the shock, the thoughts, thinking back. The images you paint to yourself. When I came I was a block of ice. And then David came. His physical appearance is similar to me and the ice instantly melted. And then I heard the story for the first time. He searched for years, never stopped searching. He received draft orders, messages from the census, what not."
"They came to arrest mom," Her sister, Esther Magid, joins the conversation. "Mom didn't know anything. All the mail came to Dad, and they had been divorced since Rosh Ha'Ayin."
I heard of a similar case in Yokne'am. There, they imprisoned the mother, Yona Omeisi, because they thought she is the daughter that needs to enlist.
"In our case they came to arrest her, and Mom tells us, 'You see, she's alive. She's alive. I knew she's not dead. I have a daughter.'"
Did you grow up knowing that you have another sister?
"Always. I remember my mother feeding us and crying. 'I hope', she would tell us, 'That someone feeds Miriam like I'm feeding you.' These were my first memories, mother praying for Miriam. If we eat - she prays someone would feed her. If it's cold - she prays someone would cover her."
What happened there at Rosh Ha'Ayin? What did Mom tell you?
"She came to Israel five months pregnant. After giving birth to Miriam, at the transit camp in Rosh Ha'Ayin, they took the baby to the nursery. After some time she and her husband - David, that's Miriam's father, not my father - broke up and she went to her parents in the transit camp of Ein Shemer. Once a week she would return to Rosh Ha'Ayin to visit her child in the nursery. And one day she came and they told her she had died. How could she have died? Miriam was ten months old, healthy, full, pretty. They showed her no grave, and gave her no certificate. Nothing. They told her the grave is very far, and it's impossible to go there. What could mom do? a Yemenite woman alone, with no husband, frightened."
When did you hear that Miriam found you?
"We didn't know right away. After some time they came to us from Miriam's father's family and said they had found her and that she visits him and there are photographs. Mom was in hospital then, and I was afraid to tell her. I couldn't sleep at night. I talked with the wife of her father, David Shuker, and she wasn't so supportive. They told us it is being taken care of by a social worker, Ella Balas. She decides and she's abroad. Imagine how much we expected her return. It took time. There were plenty of inquiries. We needed to make sure that Miriam agrees to meet us. And one day we found ourselves at the social worker's office waiting for her. After more than forty years.
Ella Balas asked us if we needed water and we told her, 'no, we're strong.' And then we go in and Miriam is in front of us, in the flesh. She was very strong. Mother wasn't. She started to cry and all her body started to tremble. We all started to cry. Only Yigal, my brother, was very strong and reserved. Well, he's a man, he has to."
"Ella Balas left the decision to me," Adina-Miriam says, "I had a right not maintain contact."
"She had the right, but she invited us right away to her home" says Esther. "I came home shortly after the meeting and all the sisters were waiting at the door to see how it went and if they could go right away to visit Miriam. Miriam asked for time in order to calm down. Since then we're one family. Soon we will get to know the adoptive mother. All is left now is to find my sister-in-law Najma who was kidnapped. She has a beauty mark on her hip. Maybe this article will help: Najma with a beauty mark on her hip."
The Girl is Alive
David Shuker, Miriam's father, did not stop searching for her since the day she disappeared in Rosh Ha'Ayin. He heard about it when he arrived at the nursery, where he was told that one woman came and took her, and he innocently thought that it was his ex-wife who took her. After he found out that she wasn't at her mother's, he begun searching for her across the country.
At 1968, when the Bahlul-Minkowski Commission was established to investigate the fate of the missing Yemenite children, it also examined the complaint of David Shuker. Here is the commission's answer to his complaint (page 51 of the commission's report):
"A. Regarding the aforementioned girl, Miriam daughter of David Shuker, an encompassing and exhaustive investigation was made, which eventually led to the discovery of the missing girl. The investigation uncovered that the girl is alive and is found today in an adoptive family, based on a legal adoption order. To the knowledge of the commission, the father has no knowledge of this fact, until now.
B. Considering the secrecy of these findings, and in accordance with the Adoption Law, the commission is not authorized to disclose in this report the methods of investigation and its findings, until it is decided by the authorized officials what to do with the facts that had been discovered. The investigation file, containing all the documents, will remain in the hands of the commission until the final decision."
Yigal Mashiah's article in Haaretz (Hebrew): http://www.haaretz.co.il/yemenite-children/1.2918799