In 1949 my grandparents, Yehuda and Shoshana-Shama’a Cohen, immigrated from Yemen to Israel as a couple with an only child. Later on in Israel they had two more daughters. One of them is my mother.
In the summer of 1956 my grandmother arrived at “Beit Rivka” in Petah Tikva, which at the time was a maternity hospital, during the ninth month of her pregnancy. In spontaneous labor she gave birth, to the surprise of the entire family, to a pair of identical twin boys.
The babies were born with no physical distress, they both cried immediately after birth, and weighed about 2 kilos.
My grandmother was 26 during their birth and she already had 3 children aged 4, 5 and 7.
In the hospital, the two babies were put in a single incubator, and when my grandmother wanted to see them, she was prevented from doing so under the pretense that she is not allowed to enter the neonatal unit, despite strongly insisting on seeing them.
A day before my grandmother was released from the hospital, one of the hospital staff members entered her room and questioned her about her familial and economic state.
On the day she was supposed to leave the hospital and go home with the babies, she was told she couldn’t take the babies because they were too small and still in need of care. In addition, they said that as the hospital was overcrowded and lacking the proper conditions to take care of the babies, they would be transferred to HaEmek Medical Center in Afula, where they will receive better care. The hospital reassured her that when the twins will gain enough weight, my grandparents will receive a letter saying that they can come and take the twins back. My grandmother asked about the great distance [between Beit Rivka and the hospital the babies were to be transferred to], and the only answer she got was that the conditions there were better.
Just like that, my naïve grandparents returned to their home empty-handed, not without paying for the ambulance that would drive the twins to the Afula hospital. It’s important to note that my grandparents did not go to visit them in Afula, because they lived in Ramat-Gan [which was far from Afula,] and their economic situation prevented them from traveling that distance. While in today’s context that seems entirely ridiculous, their economic situation back then was indeed strained and difficult. They suffered while expecting the arrival of the letter that never came, and my grandmother was a young woman right after childbirth, taking care of 3 children, without the twins.
Two weeks later, the family received a telegram, in which my grandmother read that one of the babies passed away. On the next day, an additional telegram arrived, saying that the second baby also passed away. My grandmother, who nearly lost her sanity, called my grandfather and told him to travel to Afula right away in order to see the babies.
My grandfather arrived at the hospital in Afula, and asked to see his sons. A doctor led him to the morgue, but as they were entering the room, my grandfather recoiled, as he is a Cohen, and is [religiously] forbidden from being near the dead. The doctor calmed him down and told him that he would only see the twins from afar, standing outside the room.
My grandfather said that the doctor opened the cooling chamber and pulled out two packages wrapped in rags, and told him that the babies were inside. My grandfather didn’t see any babies. The doctor “calmed him” down and told him that, seeing as he is a religious man, he promises him that the baby would “circumcise the babies before their burial”.
My grandfather came home heartbroken.
My grandparents seemingly believed the story, because they were honest and innocent people, but my grandmother never fully accepted the death of her sons. She couldn’t understand how babies born in easy labor, in 5 minutes, can pass away after three weeks. My grandmother never received birth certificates, death certificates or any documents confirming that she ever gave birth to twin boys. The only evidence comes from the family members, who know the story down to every detail.
During the nineties, a television investigation said that the national infant adoption center (including infants of the Yemenite community) was located in the HaEmek Medical Center, in Afula.
My grandmother, may she rest in peace, was taken from us 9 years ago, at the age of 73, after a terrible illness. Until her last day, she never stopped talking about the children who were taken from her. I think that almost no one is able to understand the feeling of having two children taken from you without any clear explanation, without even mentioning an illness or other reason for their deaths, what raises even further the thought that a terrible, monstrous scheme transpired here.
My grandfather, Rabbi Yehuda Cohen, may he rest in peace, passed away about four years ago…
I don’t know whether this is an attempt to track down our uncles, my mother’s siblings, but regardless, I felt the need to publish this case, and I would appreciate your help in spreading the word.
About five years ago, I attempted to distribute this story via email. I received a few responses, but of course, chain emailing is not as powerful as sharing on social media platforms. I would appreciate if you could share this story, and maybe a miracle will occur and “truth will spring from the earth” (Psalms 85:12)
My grandmother never received birth certificates, death certificates or any documents confirming that she ever gave birth to twin boys. The only evidence comes from the family members, who know the story down to every detail.
My grandmother, peace be upon her, was taken from us 9 years ago, at the age of 73, after a terrible illness. Up until the last of her days, she never stopped talking about the children who were taken from her. I think that almost no one is able to understand the feeling of having two children taken from you without any clear explanation, without even mentioning an illness or other reason for their deaths, what raises even further the thought that a terrible, monstrous scheme transpired here.