In early 1949 thousands of Jews entered the Hashid transit camp in Aden, Yemen, with the intention to immigrate to the newly established State of Israel. Rabbi Yehia and his wife Simcha were among the large influx of immigrants. Simcha was in her late pregnancy, and she brought her two sons, Reuven and Shlomo (Suleiman).
The Hashid transit camp could hold a maximum of 1,000 people. There were actually 13,000 Jews there. There was one clinic, where the children were taken for examinations since there was a low level of sanitation at the camp. Rabbi Yehia brought his two sons, Reuven and Shlomo, to the clinic for a check up. They were healthy, but at the clinic he was told that they were sick and that they should remain in the clinic under medical supervision. Rabbi Yehia left his boys at the clinic and returned to his wife.
The following day, he went back to the clinic to pick up his sons and bring them back to the tent and he was astonished when he learned that both had died during the night due to a terrible epidemic. Rabbi Yehia asked to see the bodies of his sons, but the local nurse told him that they had already been buried in a mass grave. With great sadness, he returned to his wife Simchah who could not believe this terrible fate. Rabbi Yehia could not believe it either, so the following day he went back to the clinic, stood outside by the fence and looked for his children. He did this day after day. Rab Yehia saw his wife Simcha crying from dawn to dusk because of the tragedy that befell her. He did not give up and he continued to search for his children.
One day, as he was standing outside of the clinic’s fence surveying the children inside the clinic, he saw all of a sudden his son Shlomo. He called his name. The son heard his father and ran towards him. Rabbi Yehia dug a hole underneath the fence and with his tired hands pulled his son underneath the fence towards him. “Have you seen you brother Reuven?”, asked the father, but Shlomo had not seen him.
Rabbi Yehia returned time and again to the clinic’s fence looking for his son, Reuven, but his efforts were in vain. Finally it was time to fly to the holy land. Half an hour before the flight Simcha gave birth to another baby boy, who was called Zion because that was the destination of the family.
In Israel the family settled in Afula. In 1952 Shomo died of a disease. A few months later, Simcha gave birth to another boy, and when he was circumcised he was given the name Shlomo in memory of his brother.
Rabbi Yehia worked for the Solel Boneh [construction company]. Simcha was a housewife. She gave birth to two more boys, Amnon and Dudu, but they never stopped crying over the disappearance of their son Reuven.
The same Shlomo who was named after his deceased brother is today Shlomo Malihi and is today the Deputy Mayor of Afula. This is the story of his family.
Yehia and Simcha died a long time ago without knowing what happened to their son Reuven.
Their story is that of dozens of families.
In the picture, from R to L, the Malihi family in the 60’s: the son Zion, the mother Simcha, the dad Rabbi Yehia, Shlomo, and in the center Dudu.