Zecharia (Yahia) and Batia (Bania) Gershi

The story of of Haim Gershi’s (ID 4256665) disappearance:

My parents immigrated to Israel from Yemen, one week before Passover of 1950. Five people: Father, mother and the siblings: Shoshana (8 years old), Shalom (4 years old), and Haim, a two-year old, born in 1949.

They arrived straight into the immigrant camp “Ein Shemer,” where they were housed in tents and the conditions were very difficult. The tents were generally uninhabitable, and in particular for babies. The newborns were therefore taken to the nursery, which was built in stone while the tents were exposed to harsh weather conditions.

Each morning, my mother would come to the nursery, to feed (breastfeed) and play with little Haim, who was two years old. Mother says Haim was a beautiful, healthy and lively child. Smiley and energetic.

And so it went on for a while.

One day, my mother came to the nursery, as usual, and Haim was not in his bed. One of the caregivers then approached her and told her that at night, Haim climbed on the bed rail and fell. He injured his back and will be sent to the hospital. They showed her a child all bandaged up, head and body all bandaged with only his eyes peering out. Mother says it was difficult to identify him but she believed the caregiver. The boy was taken to Rambam hospital in Haifa.

One day afterwards, my parents were informed that Haim had died.

My parents were told to arrive on Thursday for his burial. They went to Haifa, but when they arrived, they were told to come back the next day for the burial. The day after was a Friday, and my father decided that he would go alone, so mother could prepare for Shabbat and care for the two other small children at home. (She never forgave him for that). Father then went to Haifa, to the hospital, where he received a carton box with the body inside.

With this box, he walked from Rambam hospital by foot to a cemetery (I don’t know which one), and there he buried little Haim.

Father came home and they sat “shiva.”

When my mother asked my father if he opened the box, to check that the body was indeed Haim’s, my father muttered, “maybe.”

For the rest of her life, mother was not certain if father had identified Haim’s body.

In consolation of this terrible trauma, the next-born son, born in 1951 in the transit camp in Binyamina, was also called Haim.

Over the years they learned of other stories and believed that their child was also taken from them through deceit.

They never visited or mentioned his grave. They buried their pain deep in their hearts and did not share it with us.

My parents rarely talked to us about Haim’s passing.

Sarah Damti