This is the story of the Obadiah family who wishes not only to tell it, but also to receive your help in finding a social worker named Emma, who worked at the welfare office in the Jalil transit camp in Herzliya. I believe that through her I might find out what happened to my uncle, Benjamin Obadiah. My grandparents, Aaron and Rebecca (Riketa) Obadiah, immigrated to Israel in December 1949, from Egypt via Italy, with five children: Mordechai, Leon, Jacob, Rachel (Rachelle) and Miriam.
Upon their arrival they were sent to Sha’ar HaAliya, then they moved to Pardes Hanna and later to Jalil transit camp in Herzliya, where, in 1952, Benjamin was born.
On the day Benjamin was born, Emma, the social worker, started becoming closer to my family. More than once she approached my grandmother and asked her to entrust her with Benjamin, arguing that she had many children. Of course, my grandmother never complied with her request, but Emma didn’t back away and tried to convince my grandmother repeatedly to part with Benjamin and give him up to her. Her appeals only ceased on the day the announcement came that Benjamin had died. Not because Emma had no further reason to address my grandmother, but because she was gone from the transit camp. The day after we got notice that Benjamin had died, Emma stopped coming to the Welfare office in the Jalil transit camp altogether.
Benjamin was 8.5 months old when he got sick (he had diarrhea) and was taken to the Dajani Hospital in Jaffa. In those days parents were not allowed to stay with their hospitalized children and were designated specific visiting hours. My grandma and granddad stayed at Benjamin’s bedside every moment they were permitted by the hospital. If it were up to my grandma, she would not have left her son alone, not for a minute. Since the social worker, Emma, wanted so desperately to have her son, she worried for him constantly.
Benjamin received medical treatment at the hospital for about ten days, and with every visit my grandmother saw her son’s health improving, and she waited impatiently for the moment she could take him home. My mother and uncle remember their father receiving a telegram telling him to go get Benjamin from the hospital, but when my grandfather arrived at the hospital he was told that Benjamin had died. All his plans to see his son were unsuccessful, he received a reply that Benjamin died and was buried along with an old man.
He was not shown a body, was prevented from holding a funeral, and of course, a death certificate was not supplied. The fact that he was buried together with an old man was also disconcerting, and when Benjamin turned 18 years old his draft orders came, for these reasons my grandmother believed her son had not died but was kidnapped. In 1993, we issued a death certificate, but numerable details were missing, including Benjamin’s nationality and religion. Benjamin was born in Israel, was given an ID card, was circumcised and at the age of 18 he even received a draft order, why was it not stated in his death certificate that he was a Jew?
My grandmother was an educated woman and spoke Hebrew fluently, but like all her generation her cries went unheard. She had to live with the sense that her son had been kidnapped and that she was lacking the ability and means to prove it (even today, in the year of 2016, we are still denied access to the files).
Until her last breath, my grandmother believed that her son was alive and that he was kidnapped by Emma, the social worker. She believed this due to Emma’s constant badgering for her to give up Benjamin being that she had other children. My grandmother also believed that it was no coincidence that on the day Benjamin was declared dead Emma disappeared, suddenly stopped working at the welfare office Jalil transit camp in Herzliya. Needless to say, my mother does not remember another family with a similar case in the transit camp.
Here I turn to you - maybe someone remembers a social worker named Emma. I have no other details about her, not even her surname, only that she was a social worker who worked in the welfare office of the Jalil transit camp in Herzliya. If anyone remembers a social worker named Emma who worked somewhere else in Israel, please share that information. If anyone remembers anything, even if it seems irrelevant, I would be very grateful if you shared it.
I'm certain that even if I don’t find Benjamin I could find out what happened to him through this social worker, Emma. A kid that was taken away from his parents at 8.5 months couldn’t possibly remember he was born to another family. Whoever took him most probably changed his name and issued him a new identity card, so even if he heard the story of the kidnappings, he has no idea he was part of them.
To you, Benjamin:
Maybe you are interested in this case and look into these stories, or maybe you do know that you are adopted and so you are looking here, so I turn to you. You were probably given a new name, but to our family you will always be Benjamin. First of all I hope you were entrusted to good parents, and that you live a happy life. If you have a mother named Emma who worked as a social worker in the 50’s in the welfare office of the Jalil transit camp in Herzliya, or somewhere else, you may want to raise some questions, maybe you'll find us. Maybe you know that you are adopted and was delivered by a social worker named Emma, this should also raise questions. Above all else, I want to let you know that your mom never gave up on you. It is also important for you to understand that you were not adopted but kidnapped and that the day it all happened your mother’s world fell apart, and she remembered you until her dying day. It is also important for me to tell you that your siblings have not forgotten you, they talk about you and wait for the day you meet. If you decide that you are content with the family you have, it’s alright, we won’t pressure or judge you, just give us a sign so that we, your biological family, can get some closure.
Written according to the memories of the brothers and sisters:
Jacob Obadia, Rachel Tovim and Miriam Peretz
My grandma and granddad stayed at Benjamin’s bedside every moment they were permitted by the hospital. If it were up to my grandma, she would not have left her son alone, not for a minute. Since the social worker, Emma, wanted so desperately to have her son, she worried for him constantly.
She believed this due to Emma’s constant badgering for her to give up Benjamin being that she had other children. My grandmother also believed that it was no coincidence that on the day Benjamin was declared dead Emma disappeared, suddenly stopped working at the welfare office Jalil transit camp in Herzliya.