This is the story of a brave and amazing woman that I have been privileged to have as my grandmother. Gradma Sarah gave birth to her first boy when she was 17 years old in Yemen. After being three days in labor, the baby was stillborn. After such painful labor, my gradma was able to give birth to two healthy children, a girl and a boy.
In 1949, my grandmother and grandfather, together with their two children and their extended family, were on their way to Israel. In the Hashid transit camp in Yemen, they took from my grandmother her five-month-old boy, Yefet, under the excuse that he looked pale. They told her that they are taking care of him and that she shouldn’t worry. After a few days, when my grandparents were told that the time had come for them to board the plane, my grandparents asked to pick up the boy. They were told, “Leave him with us; we will return him to you as a pilot.” Obviously, my grandparents did not agree. Together with family and friends, they sat on the ground in front of the airplane and they refused to board the plane until the child was returned. This is how it started…
When representatives from the transit camp (apparently from the Jewish Agency) realized that they were dealing with a couple that would not give in, they returned the boy.
When they arrived to Israel, they were housed in tents in Ein Shemer. There too my grandmother was approached and was told that the boy did not look well and that he was in need of medical treatment. The boy was taken to the temporary clinic in the immigrant camp. For a month my grandmother went there daily to breastfeed him, to change his diapers, and to play with him. One day she arrived at the clinic and found an empty bed. They told her they did not know what happened and they sent her to different offices. All this even as she did not understand the language or the mentality.
When my grandfather understood what had happened, he went to the clinic and demanded that the manager of the clinic show him his son. The administrator tried to dissuade him, and my grandfather overturned the table and threatened him. This time too, they understood that he meant business… and sent him to the hospital in Be’er Tuvia.
My brave grandparents rode there the first time by bus, going to an unknown place, without understanding Hebrew… in order to get back their son. They arrived to the hospital in Be’er Tuvia, saw the boy through the windows, and there too they made enough trouble to get their boy back.
After some time, my grandparents--together with other immigrants--created their own settlement, our Moshav, Moshav Giv'at Ye'arim. My grandmother gave birth to two more boys and a girl.
In 1955, she was pregnant with another child, a healthy and proper pregnancy. On Sunday, September 25th, 1955 (9 of Tishrei 5716), she arrived with labor pangs to the Beit Hadegel hospital in Jerusalem (across from the Davidka Square). Before the birth, the doctor checked in with her about her family situation. He touched her belly and said, “God bless, you already have five children”... My grandmother did not attribute much importance to this comment. For some reason, she was anaesthetised during labor.
When she regained consciousness, she asked for details, and the nurse who was in the room told her that she gave birth to a boy, but they boy was ill. My grandmother asked to see him, to touch him, breastfeed him… but she was not allowed. The same happened the next day.
Even when my grandfather arrived to the hospital, they just told him that his son was ill and that’s it. My grandparents tried to get more information, but they were ignored. My grandfather asked to see his boy--live, ill, or dead--but he was refused. He said he wanted to bury the boy himself. They just ignored him. For a full month my grandfather went to the hospital and asked, shouted, pleaded… after a month, my grandfather died during heart surgery.
Today I heard about other families in our moshav that underwent similar experiences. My grandmother says that our neighbor (Cohen) gave birth to twin babies in a tent in the moshav. Everyone saw the babies and was very excited. After birth, the soldiers that were in the moshav took the mother and the twins to the hospital. When they got to the hospital, the twins were taken from the mother and the mother was told that they were sick and that she could not breastfeed them. After four days, she was sent home and she and her husband were told to come to the following day to pick up the babies. The next day, when they showed up, they were told that the babies had died. The Cohens asked to see the babies but were not allowed.
Yonah, our neighbor, her child was taken from her during labor at the hospital.
Yefet’s wife, our neighbor - her child was taken.
Haim’s wife, his two-year old boy was taken. The boy was burnt with boiling water. He was taken to the hospital. The mother was told that the boy needed to stay under medical supervision. The following day the boy’s father went to the hospital to bring back his child, but was told that the boy had died and that it was not possible to see his body. The father wanted to jump out of a window.
Geulah, her one-year old daughter was taken. A doctor in the moshav said the girl was not feeling well and that she needed to be taken to a hospital. A week after the daughter’s admission to the hospital, the mother was told that her child had died. Naturally they did not let her see the body.
Channah gave birth to a daughter. She was also taken.
These are eight children than my grandmother knows about, just in our moshav. All the children disappeared. Without seeing any bodies. Without birth certificates. Without death certificates. A big void remains in the heart of the mothers who brought forth children and were not allowed to touch them.
“You ask for the fruit of your garden
Who will tell you? Who will answer you?
Your pain is bitter, days pass
You were left alone, wanting to believe”
(from Pri Ganech, Fruit of Your Garden,
by Aviva Avidan and Eli Luzon)
Grandfather spent a month, went to the hospital every day, yelling, begging. After that month he passed away during heart surgery.
All that's left in mother's heart is a gaping emptiness - she carried the child in her womb but never got to touch him.