Yehudah and Yehudit (Turkiya in Yemeni) Badihi, my parents of blessed memory, came from Yemen. My mother was the daughter of Sana’a’s last Head Rabbi—Amram Korakh. When they arrived to Israel at the end of 1949 they were first brought to a big building and then transferred to the Ein Shemer camp. We were a family blessed with children, three of them small: myself, a about three or four years old, Matanya a year and half or two years old, and baby Tziona who was about seven months old.
We arrived to Ein Shemer late at night. My uncle’s wife, who was widowed, joined our family and helped my mother take care of the children. She held Matanya in her arms. A dark nurse in white uniforms that did not speak Yemeni and just gestured with her hands took Matanya and left. She gestured as if she had taken him to play or for some treatment. My aunt thought people in the country wanted to know and get close to the family, because the nurse was smiling and gentle.
A little while later, my mother asked my aunt where Matanya was. The smiling nurse had him, my aunt replied. My mother and father—who were tired from the hard journey and accompanied by hungry children—searched for Matanya all night and did not sleep.
Rabbi Gamliel, may the memory of the righteous be a blessing, came to the assistance of my father and advised him to bring raisins to the nursery’s guard—bribe him for entrance. My father did so and even had to slightly push the guard aside to enter. (My father was a relatively a large man.) Inside he saw Matanya lying in a crib, hands and feet bound so he wouldn’t escape. Matanya had lost his voice from hours of incessant crying. He was scared—in a sealed-off state of trauma.
Since that incident Matanya did not want anything but the comfort of his mother. My mother thanked God until her last day that she had managed to retrieve her baby.
In the winter of 1950 we went to visit our grandfather Rabbi Amram Korakh in Jerusalem. It was snowy and very cold, and Tziona got sick. We went to Bikur Cholim and she was admitted into the hospital.
A few days later mother was told that Tziona had passed away. She asked to see the body and was presented with a body of a much bigger girl. My mother insisted the body presented to her was not her daughter’s but was shown nothing else. In this instance my mother, who did not speak the language, could not find or retrieve her daughter.
Her whole life my mother repeated that she had gone to Jerusalem with her hands full—with a baby girl—but returned empty-handed. To see her daughter was my mother’s greatest wish, and it is with sorrow that I say that she passed away before seeing Tziona again.
My grandfather, Amram Korakh, may the memory of the righteous be a blessing, was a well-respected man in Yemen. When he would get sick the authorities would send a special Turkish doctor, who also used to treat the Imam. The rabbi’s son, who spoke both Turkish and Yemeni, would translate between the two.
Here in Israel, two granddaughters and a great granddaughter were kidnapped straight from his dynasty and legacy. We had a pool back in our family house in Sana’a, and in Israel we received this blow. In Yemen we had a big farm with livestock, sheep, coffee plants, bananas, and even bee hives. My father didn’t want to immigrate to Israel. The Imam wanted us to stay and not go to Balad El-Harb, Arabic for the country of wars, Israel. It took a long time until the family agreed to move to Israel.
Years later, when we were living in the Amidar neighborhood of Ramat Gan, I used to walk around Urda square near the great synagogue. I would see Yemenite women lining up and waiting to be chosen by one of the Ashkenazi ladies to mop their houses’ floors, and I would feel a knife slice through my heart. The way we used to be back there, and what had happened to us here.
My father became very ill the moment he arrived in Israel—his condition was unbearable—and he passed away in 1997. To this day we in the family don’t understand how he didn’t lose his mind from what happened to him here. The Arabs there in Yemen would work with him and help him and here, the Jews worked him so hard—and he arrived as an adult and with a family no less. He didn’t know how to hold a shovel; in Yemen he lived like a king.
In one sentence: from the highest rooftop to the lowest pit.
Batya Badihi Ben Zur
My father did so and even had to slightly push the guard aside to enter. (My father was a relatively a large man.) Inside he saw Matanya lying in a crib, hands and feet bound so he wouldn’t escape. Matanya had lost his voice from hours of incessant crying. He was scared—in a sealed-off state of trauma.
Her whole life my mother repeated that she had gone to Jerusalem with her hands full—with a baby girl—but returned empty-handed.