In 1949 our family, together with all our neighbors and friends, prepared to immigrate to Israel from Yemen. The family had lived in Dayan, Yemen, neighboring Arab Muslims, who cried as the family was leaving.
My parents, Naomi and Saadia Tzabari (Ya’ish) and my brothers, Zecharia (13), Yehuda (8) and Rumia (2.5), walked many kilometers until they arrived in the immigrant camp of Hashed (Geula) in Yemen. It all started on a Sunday. My mother, may her memory be a blessing, went to get some water for the family, and in her misfortune fell on glass shards, injuring herself. When she came back to the tent with a bloody foot, her neighbors, and my father, may his memory be a blessing, told her to go to the makeshift hospital in the camp to seek treatment. My mother went there with my sister Rumia, and when she arrived at the hospital, one of the nurses came out and instructed that all the mothers with children should receive treatment first. When my mother entered, the nurse told her that Rumia needed a bath and new clothing, and thus took the child to another room. When they finished treating her, my mother asked for Rumia, but the staff told her she could only have her daughter back in a week’s time. My mother pleaded with them and refused to leave until they told her that her daughter will be returned to her custody the next day. When my mother returned to retrieve Rumia, they only allowed her to see her daughter, claiming that she had a high fever and needed more rest in the hospital. On the third day, my mother had decided she would take the child no matter what, but she was told that the child passed away from her illness. On October 18th, 1949, my parents refused to get on the airplane without their daughter, or without at least seeing her body. And then, miraculously and suddenly, the daughter was alive, and they were told that she would be flown to Israel a few days after them. She never arrived, and in any case, we do not know what ever happened to her. My parents searched everywhere for her, in the winter and the cold. Consequently, my father got ill and throughout his life could only work at “HaMeshakem” (a government agency that provides jobs for disabled Israelis) in menial jobs. My parents wept every time they spoke about or mentioned Rumia. When I was born on November 25th, 1950, I was under constant protection, and when they had to go work, they took me with them out of fear of another abduction.
Esther Sharabi, of the Tzabari family
On October 18th, 1949, my parents refused to get on the airplane without their daughter, or without at least seeing her body. And then, miraculously and suddenly, the daughter was alive, and they were told that she would be flown to Israel a few days after them. She never arrived, and in any case, we do not know what ever happened to her.