Yaakov Katz's disappearance has been a mystery to his family for many years. He immigrated from Romania to Israel with his parents Ida and Yosef in 1950, just months after he was born, along with his brother David who was three years old. The couple’s eldest son, 17-year-old Yitzhak, came to Israel with the Youth Aliyah to Kibbutz Ami’ad in the Upper Galilee as early as 1947. The couple had had two more children who died of diseases in the Holocaust, in the Ghetto of Transnistria, the Romanian-occupied territory in south-western Ukraine.
In Israel, the family had another daughter, Bella. Her daughter, Sarit Rosenzweig Anzel, was asked by her grandmother Ida to find out what had happened to Yaakov. She was first told the story of her uncle Yaakov 24 years ago, and ever since she believes that he was kidnapped, like the Yemenite children, when her family was living in Ein Shemer transit camp in the Hadera area. She recounted that all through the years, her grandmother had hoped to find her son before she dies. "When I was 15, my grandmother revealed the story to me, and asked me to help her find her son, whom she claimed was still alive and had not passed away, as she had been told. We tried in all sorts of ways, but we came up with nothing and at some point we gave up," she said.
When they lived in the transit camp, Yaakov became ill and after a brief examination at the local HMO clinic, it was decided that he would be hospitalized at Rambam Hospital in Haifa. “My parents were advised to leave the boy overnight for tests. With the little money they had, they managed to return to the Ein Shemer transit camp,” said Rosenzweig-Ancel. “The next morning the parents, who spoke only Hungarian, Romanian and a little Yiddish, went back to the hospital. When they arrived, they were told that Yaakov had died that night”.
“Grandma asked to see him and check if it was really her child, but the hospital refused to show him to her. She said she thought she saw the child in a room with some other children, but they payed no attention to what she said. My grandmother did not speak Hebrew and communication was very difficult for her," Rosenzweig-Ancel recounted.
That night Yaakov was buried. “They told her he would be buried, but still they wouldn’t let her see the body. It was an odd thing not to let a mother say goodbye to her son. Throughout the years she believed that it wasn’t a baby inside the bundle that was buried, because it didn’t have the size and shape of a baby. There’s no official grave in Haifa, there’s an area and a plot and that’s all we have,” she said, adding that her grandmother had “an unsigned Chevrah Kadisha death certificate”.
A few months after the apparent death of Yaakov, the family moved to the Eastern housing project in Rishon Letzion, where many families who had emigrated from Yemen lived, and there was much discussion of kidnapping within the immigrants’ children. “My grandma heard from her neighbour a story identical to her’s, only he had insisted on opening the door to the next room and found his daughter crying. It only intensified her feeling that her son was still alive."