Shlomo and Shulamit Behagli
  • Country of Origin: Yemen

Shlomo Behagli's testimony:

I experienced seven gates of hell! I came to the Land of Israel with my firstborn, Haim, who was born in Yemen. We had to go to the port city by foot, we walked for six days, we rode camels and donkeys until we arrived. I carried my son on my shoulder all the way. When we arrived in Eden, the Jewish Agency built a camp where all the immigrants were gathered. After a month in the camp, they sent us a plane, me, my wife and my son immigrated to Israel. We were excited and anxious by the uncertainty, but we hoped for the best. We never imagined that what happened would happen. We flew for several hours until we arrived at the Lod airport and from there we drove to Rosh HaAyin. As soon as we arrived, we put up a tent…

A few hours later, two nurses came and took our son. I was startled and asked them: "Where are you taking my son?" They told me, "we're taking him to the nursery, he can't stay in the tent." And I agreed, I believed in their good intentions. I came with them to the nursery that was located next to the tents. They told me: "Your son will sleep here, come visit him and nurse him three times a day," and so it was. For two weeks my wife would breastfeed him every day.

One day, my wife went as usual at five o'clock in the morning to nurse him, when she arrived, she didn't see the boy in his bed. She asked the nurses: "Where is my son??" "You don't have a son!" She came crying to the tent and called me to come to the nursery. I was raging in there, they called the guards on me, and they violently beat me up and pulled me outside.

Three months later, I found out by chance that my son Haim, who did not exist at all, was hospitalized at Dajani Hospital in Jaffa. They wouldn't let me in, so I sneaked in, I saw my son, so I told them: "This is my son!" They came and took me out, beat me up again. Then they announced that Haim was dead.

I contacted the Prime Minister's Office, the President, and the welfare authorities… When I turned to the police, they realized I was a problem and told me "Your son was buried, dead. He is buried in the Petah Tikva Cemetery." I went to the Chevra Kadisha [Jewish Burial Society], they told me none of it was true. A lie! There's nothing there.

My family's ordeal had a terrible effect on my wife's health, her longing for her son Haim led to a nervous breakdown and prolonged hospitalization. All her life, she didn't stop crying and couldn't find comfort for her soul. Her poor health put a great burden on me and my six children, I found myself in a very severe situation concerning my health and my ability to take care of the family.

About five years after the abduction of her son, Shulamit Behagli left her home and was hospitalized in various institutions. She passed away at a geriatric institution in 2010, at the age of 78.

Shlomo Behagli worked tirelessly all his life to find his son. He reached out to dozens of institutions and was interviewed in the press several times. In October 2016 he died at the age of 87, without knowing what happened to his son.

This testimony was written by Shiran Yonis, the granddaughter of Shlomo and Shulamit.

For more information about my family, contact me on Facebook: Shiran Yonis Percia.

Ambiguous Loss theory – the theory you all need to know

Pauline Boss came up with the theory of Ambiguous Loss following therapeutic sessions with families. Ambiguous Loss is an uncertain loss. According to Boss, there are two main types of loss: physical loss – when someone is not physically present, but continues to exist psychologically, such as when someone is kidnapped, held hostage or prisoner, or missing. The second type is psychological loss – when a person is physically present but psychologically absent, such as in situations of severe depression, Alzheimer's disease, severe head injuries, and more.

We will focus on the first type – physical loss:

Ambiguous loss is different from actual loss – death – since, in essence, ambiguous loss is experienced as *reversible*. When death occurs, there are processes and mourning rituals, leading to a sense of closure, while in a situation of ambiguous loss there is no burial and many times the body of the deceased is never seen. With no concrete proof of the existence of the loss, the family remains stuck in between – in a state of ambiguity as to what happened to the family member.

Boss claims that Ambiguous Loss is the hardest loss of all, as it creates ambiguity in the boundaries between family members. Thus, it is not clear whether the missing person is still part of the family or not, creating confusion regarding the roles within the family when siblings/uncles/grandparents can start functioning as parents and other different variations of role exchanges. The undermined roles within the family and the unresolved grief can create various behavioral and emotional symptoms, such as sleeping disorders, concentration problems, depression, prolonged guilt and other difficult feelings. Boss claims that these symptoms are *a product of living in a state of prolonged ambiguity and not a product of weakness or family failure*.

Children in families that experience Ambiguous Loss without treatment are especially vulnerable. In many cases the scars they carry will lead to processes of intergenerational transmission when they have their own families.

What to do?

First of all *give things a name* – be aware that if you have experienced a situation in which one of your family members is absent or missing for a long time, you are in a state of Ambiguous Loss: the hard feelings, the constant tension, concentration and sleep disorders are a product (solely or partially) of the experience of Ambiguous Loss.

Another helpful step is to strengthen social ties with people who have gone through similar experiences, to share a common space, to speak openly and spontaneously about their personal stories; this form of sharing creates a sense of community and encourages healing processes. These actions create feelings of movement replacing the stagnation that follows the experience of Ambiguous Loss.

Sounds familiar?

Today is Awareness Day to the Abduction of Yemenite, Mizrahi, and Balkan Children

The abduction cases meets all the criteria of the Ambiguous Loss theory - children and mothers who disappeared without returning; death without a grave, body or death certificate. Parents, siblings, uncles, and grandparents who were left waiting for the return of the missing, a life of endless anticipation, ambiguity, unresolved grief, heavy guilt, helplessness, anxiety and depression.

After Haim, my grandparents' eldest son was abducted at the age of three months, everyone was left to live with unresolved questions: where he is? is he alive If so, where? Is he really dead? My grandmother suffered from depression following the abduction, and at some point, stopped living at home with the rest of the family. The loss of her son led to another loss – the loss of the family mother's emotional life.

Please don't be indifferent to this post, it was written from the heart and can be very valuable in helping affected families.

The first step in Boss's theory is to give things a name; you can help people who may not understand what they are experiencing, that it is Ambiguous Loss. Knowing it, makes it easier – share this post wherever you can, make sure it sprouts like mushrooms after the rain.

Then, enable people who have experienced Ambiguous Loss to share their story, without judging, only listening. Connect them with other people who have experienced the same thing. Just as the activists who are working to expose the Yemenite, Mizrahi and Balkan Children Affair, do, uncompromisingly, every single day.

For those interested in my presentation, 'Ambiguous Loss in the Abduction of Yemenite, Mizrahi and Balkan Children,' or academic articles on the theory of Ambiguous Loss, please contact me privately.

Photo: The late Shlomo and Shulamit Behagli, my grandparents, parents of the missing Haim, who suffered from Ambiguous Loss their entire lives.

The loss of her son led to another loss – the loss of the family mother's emotional life.