Ziona Heimann

Ziona Heimann (52) was two years old when she was taken from a hospital in Jerusalem and brought by the Alon couple to Kibbutz Ginosar. ‘My adoptive mother told me that Yigal [Alon] sorted out the adoption issue’, she claims. All of her attempts at finding her biological parents were in vain.

To the Kidnapped Yemenite Children affair, which has been rocking the country for the past few years, an incredible personal story was recently added: the story of a small girl and Yigal Alon, the former chief commander of the Palmach and prominent Labour politician, as well as his wife Ruth.

Ziona Heimann (52), who today resides in Moshav Shadmot Dvora, was two years old when she was brought to Kibbutz Ginosar by Yigal and Ruth Alon. The couple found her in a hospital in Jerusalem, and brought her to their childless friends for adoption. Ziona grew up loved by her adoptive parents, but her belief that she is among the kidnapped Yemenite children, and her mysterious history, troubles her nights.

‘I grew up with the love and care of my adoptive parents, and I experienced the affection of both Yigal and Ruth Alon, but I have also suffered greatly due to my Yemenite background’, she says. ‘I never felt like that I belong in the Kibbutz. The children called me black (Kushit) because of my brown skin’.

Ziona, a mother of three girls and a son, dreams of opening her adoption file in order to know who her biological family is, and especially whether she was kidnapped from her parents. She knows little about her past – only at the age of 16 did she find out that she was an adopted child.

‘I was two years old when my mother decided to adopt a baby, since she was unable to have one of her own. She arrived with the Alon couple to the hospital in Jerusalem, where I was lying sick. My mother picked me, and when I was better I was taken to the Kibbutz by Yigal and Ruth, which equipped themselves with a legal certificate of adoption – a gift for my adoptive parents’.

‘My parents raised me as if I were their biological daughter, but the children of the kibbutz harassed me and called me names. When I was sixteen years old, one of the girls in the boarding school in Kibbutz Givat Haim revealed to me that I was adopted. I was in shock; I was angry at my parents for not telling me, and I forced them to tell me the truth. They told me that they chose me because of my beautiful eyes, and for my hands that reached out to them when they visited the hospital. They told me that Yigal Alon had sorted out the adoption issue.

When Ziona grew up, she asked to open her adoption file at the Ministry of Social Affairs, but her request was refused. ‘All I knew was that I had two names – Ora and Ziona, and that my biological parents were called Avraham and Saida. I’m not sure if those are their real names’.

‘When I was refused access to the adoption file, I decided to accept my new life. Meanwhile my adoptive father passed away, and today my adoptive mother is already 92 years old. She now lives in a retirement home in the Kibbutz and I visit her every week. A few years ago a representative of the Uzi Meshulam association contacted me, saying that they know who my biological mother is – that she lives in Rosh HaAyin and that she has five boys. I visited her – she told me that she gave birth to a girl, but that the girl was taken away from her, that she was told that the girl died. We look very similar – the Yemenite look, the smile, the facial structure’.

‘I then discovered that before I reached out to her, another woman who claimed to be her kidnapped child came to her, that they had a celebration, a ‘Hafla’. Later genetic tests proved it was a mistake, and she was bitterly disappointed. We decided to conduct genetic testing for us too, but the results were inconclusive. I was disappointed, and I cut off contact with her.

Two years ago Ziona discovered that she has a grave.

‘It was horrible. Someone from the Uzi Meshulam association called me and told me that I have a grave in Jerusalem. She told me that she knows I’m one of the kidnapped Yemenite children, and that I adopted in Kibbutz Ginosar. I went to see the place where I was allegedly buried, in Har HaMenuchot in Jerusalem. The burial plot had plenty of sticks in the earth, with no names. These sticks are for me a symbol of children like me, uprooted from their families forever.

Ruth, the widow of Yigal Alon, who still resides in Kibbutz Ginosar, remembers Ziona well. "Her adoptive parents, Shlomo and Esther, have asked us to help them find a child to adopt. We came to the hospital in Jerusalem together, Ziona was a sweet and adorable baby. We brought her to them to the Kibbutz, but we had no way of knowing who her biological parents were.

Representatives of Yemenites in Israel have approached the Knesset this week, demanding support for the law proposed by MK Zvi Hendel (The National Union) to establish a national commission of inquiry, with the participation of the families, to locate the missing Yemenite children. Moshe Nachum, a member of the World Jewish Congress and a representative of the Yemenite community, told the Knesset Committee for Immigration and Absorption: ‘Ziona’s case is not unique. We discovered over 150 cases of babies whose parents were falsely told that their children had died. We demand to open the adopted children’ files which are kept hidden in the state’s archives, to conduct DNA tests for the families of the missing children, and to investigate what happened to the dozens of children who disappeared’.

Yehudit Yehezkeli, Yedioth Aharonot, 17 February 2002.

Ziona Heimann (52), who today resides in Moshav Shadmot Dvora, was two years old when she was brought to Kibbutz Ginosar by Yigal and Ruth Alon. The couple found her in a hospital in Jerusalem, and brought her to their childless friends for adoption