Yehudit Cohen’s testimony:
My name is Yehudit Cohen. I was in born in the country, in Jerusalem, in 1932, to a family who came from Kurdistan. My parents came to the country as part of a group of five couples. They arrived in Tel Aviv but my parents felt that they had come in order to live in Jerusalem, so they moved and that’s where I was born and grew up. I met my husband, Yisaschar Cohen (may his memory be a blessing), when he was a soldier. He had actually come to Israel from Yemen as a nine-year-old orphan. He came illegally, by ship, when the British still ruled here, at the end of the 1930s. He had heard his step-brother plan his Aliya (immigration) and wanted to do the same. After he arrived, he was drafted into the British army and then to the Etzel. When he served in the Etzel he used two names and carried two different identification documents, one with his real name, Cohen, and the other with a fake name, Chabani, in case he was caught or investigated.
Later on he was also drafted to the IDF, in which he served as a sapper. I met him when he came to our neighbour’s house to deliver the news that their son, Abraham Sabah, with whom he had fought, had been killed. Yisaschar was already wounded in his arm then.
We started going out that year, in 1948, the fact that he was a soldier had its benefits. At a time when there wasn’t much to eat, we would go to Abu Gosh and bring back fruit and vegetables. He could do that because he was a soldier, and this was a real source of jealousy in Machne Yehuda, the Jerusalem neighbourhood I grew up in. We got married, and even though I wanted to stay in Jerusalem, especially since he was entitled to live in Katamon, which he had helped conquer, we decided to move to Petach Tikva, near his friends. After the wedding I became pregnant. The pregnancy was fantastic. I was active and felt well. When I felt I was about to give birth, in the summer of 1949, Yisaschar was in the army and I was alone . One of the neighbours, Reuven Botel z”l, took me to Djani Hospital in Jaffa. I went to that hospital because I belonged to Clalit (health insurance).
I went into labor and my water broke at the hospital. I gave birth to a baby who was immediately wrapped up and taken from me before I was able to see how he was doing. I looked at the piece of paper that was on the side, and saw that they had written that it was a boy. I asked where my son was, no one replied. the doctor calmed me down, stroked my face and said sweetie, you’re young and you’ll have more children. I was exhausted, I looked for my son and didn’t understand where he was. The doctor kept petting me and tried to calm me down, and when he was about to stitch me up, he said, jokingly, that he was sewing me a dress. I was in pain, I was tired after the labour and the stitching. I kept asking where my son was. Exhausted, I closed my eyes, and when I woke up I was in a different place, in a room with other mothers, and nurses. I asked them where my son was, they told me to wait for the doctor who would explain. There too, they called me sweetie the whole time, and tried to calm me down. The doctor came, and this time, said that the child was dead. I said, “Show me he’s dead.” If the boy was alive, I told them to show him alive, and if he was dead to show him dead. He didn’t answer me. The whole time he tried to calm me down, saying that I was still young and would have other children. I was seventeen and a half years old, and I might have looked even younger than that. They kept avoiding me, and I started to scream, to hurt, to be angry. I was exhausted. They refused to let me see him. I knew he was alive and that he was taken away from me.
All that time my husband was in the army. Then he came back, and came to the hospital I was in to see how we were. I gave him the news the doctor gave me, My husband was upset and started to rage. He firmly demanded to know where the child was, or where the corpse was, to bury it himself. They didn’t give it to him. They were angry at him, and he banged on the tables, almost turning one upside down out of anger and agitation. I was scared because they started to threaten to call the police and force him out of there, I ran after him, even though I had just given birth, and that made me even more exhausted. In the end they did kick him out of the hospital, by force and by threatening him, and he stayed outside. They put me back into hospital because I didn’t feel well after the exertion.
When we went back home we returned in deep pain and with empty hands. The neighbours knew that I had gone to hospital, they came out to hear how we were, and I immediately said, “they told me that he was dead, but no, I know he’s alive. They took him away from me alive.” How we hurt. I had my next child at Djani too, but I never took my eyes off the girl, I was worried they would take her away from me, and I was anxious the whole time.
Now that I’m telling you about this I remember one of the neighbours telling me, during that first pregnancy, not to go to the hospital. She had said that she would help me deliver the baby at home, but I said, no way, there’s a hospital, I wouldn’t soil the sheets at home, and there, at the hospital, it is safer. When I came back she repeated, “I told you, if you go to the hospital they will "kill" it, take the child away from you” (in a Yemenite accent).
Two of Yehudit’s children, Erez and Ilanit, who were present in the interview, added:
Many years later, dad was still withdrawn and closed. We knew what had happened, but our parents didn’t talk a lot about it. They worked hard, were busy either with hard work or the army. Later on, Dad worked in a quarry, and then in orchards, using pesticides. They put all their energy into making a living and working hard. Dad unfortunately died in his sixties. There wasn’t enough time or means to keep on looking for the boy. But we always knew we had an older brother.
I asked where my son was, no one replied. the doctor calmed me down, stroked my face and said sweetie, you’re young and you’ll have more children.
They kept avoiding me, and I started to scream, to hurt, to be angry. I was exhausted. They refused to let me see him. I knew he was alive and that he was taken away from me.