We, Tafha and Swissi Atiya, arrived in the Land of Israel from Tunis in 1961. We were dropped off in the transit camps in the town of Beit Shemesh, and there we lived. We immigrated to Israel with our 6 children (Yonah, Yehoshua, Pinchas, Nachum, Naftali and Matsliach) and with my husband's parents. Matsliach, the youngest, was only 9 months old. I took him to Tipat Chalav (a public clinic for infants) to open a medical file. He was a healthy, beautiful child with blue eyes. The nurse in Tipat Chalav said the child was very skinny and asked how many people lived in our household. I told her that I lived with my husband, our children, and my in-laws. She made another comment about the child being thin and beautiful and offered to take him to a nursery. I declined and said he will be at home with me. A few weeks later I returned with Matsliach to Tipat Chalav for his vaccine, and later again for a check-up, and the nurse said he had an oral fungal infection, and we were sent to Bikur Cholim Hospital in Jerusalem where they kept Matsliach for a week. My husband went to visit him and was told he was transferred to Hadassah Ein Kerem. When he asked why our son was transferred, they said: "we don't know". My husband went to Hadassah and saw our child, and he continued to pay him daily visits. One day, I joined my husband on the drive to Jerusalem and went to visit our child at Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital. Matsliach looked healthy. He was playing in his bed. Following this, only my husband able to go as I had to stay home to look after our other small children. Also, my mother-in-law broke her leg and I had to tend to her.
After Yom Kippur of 1961, I went again to Hadassah Ein Kerem to see the child, and I saw that the nurse was holding and feeding him. I entered the room and caressed his face, and she said to me: "who are you?" I said, "I'm his mother". She answered: “You? His mother? Get out of here you stupid bitch (Hebrew – pustema, gendered slur) …you are his mother…don't come here again, it isn't necessary for you.” It seems that there was something going on there that she didn't want to talk about. I didn't understand what happened so I told her: "I have young children at home and two elderly people that I care for … my husband is coming to see him and I am calm." She says "No! You should come and see your child and care for him, and your husband should stay and look after your small children. If he resists, tell him that you went to the camp to shop for groceries…and if he takes you to the rabbinical court (to divorce) I will testify that you have not done anything".
At that time the child was in my arms…And the busses were not like they used to be… my husband said that I will miss the 17:00 bus … So I put Matsliach in the nurse's arms and said "When should I come pick him up?" She answered, "if you do not have things in your bags you can take him now". I said to her, “I'll throw everything away, just give him to me.” She said "you have no clothes for him," and I offered her my gold bangle bracelet for the hospital clothes and said to her that tomorrow my husband will return with the outfit in exchange for the bangle. The nurse laughed and said that she couldn't do that. She sent us to the office downstairs and said that if it was open that they can help us, but if the office was closed there would be nothing that she could do.
I remember rushing downstairs, we were in a hurry because of the buses and the small children at home… I said to her "tomorrow my husband will come with new clothes and take him" and she said "do not leave him, it is dangerous." I remember that as we left, in the room across from Matsliach's room, stood a couple… I remember them to this very day. I believe that they took him (their description: "tall, attractive, and neat looking people, they were very good looking, unlike us.") I remember that in Hadassah Ein Kerem there was a doctor called Yaniv and another doctor whose name I can't recall. After we left the hospital I had a bad feeling, as if our child was about to be taken. He looked neat and clean as if he was ready to go. I couldn't sleep that night I kept telling myself: "that's it, tomorrow they will take this boy away."
Only in the morning did my husband go back to the Hadassah hospital, and then they told him - the child is dead and we buried him. He asked them, “where did you bury him?” They answered "there, in the cemetery.” I couldn't speak Hebrew, but my husband did… we would go to the cemetery in Jerusalem to search for him but we couldn't find him. The only thing they told him was that the cemetery was in Jerusalem, and that's it, nothing more. We did not see a death certificate, a grave, or a corpse. Nothing. So when Swissi came home, and said to me "Matsliach is dead", we sat shiva (ritual mourning), I cried, I screamed, and then I went silent. What could I have done? It was not simple. We went looking for him in the cemeteries and we found nothing.
When Rivka was born a nurse came and said to me "tell me, did you live in Beit Shemesh?" I said "yes." She said, "you had a boy, right?" I said "yes."
And she said to me "A woman came and took him." That was it. I just gave birth to Rivka, on my own, I couldn't speak to her or anything. It was in Bikur Cholim hospital in Jerusalem. A few years later a voting card arrived in our house, addressed to Matsliach. That's it, that's all I know.
After we left the hospital I had a bad feeling, as if our child was about to be taken. He looked neat and clean as if he was ready to go. I couldn't sleep that night I kept telling myself: "that's it, tomorrow they will take this boy away."