Rabbi Uzi Meshulam z”l was niftar on Erev Shabbos after suffering a difficult illness. He was niftar in Meir Hospital in Kfar Saba at the age of 60.
In the early 1990s Meshulam and his supporters waged a war to expose those responsible for the disappearance of the Yemenite babies between 1948 -1954. Many babies disappeared during those years according to Meshulam, primarily babies from Yemenite immigrants, usually parents being told they died in a hospital. He alleged that “thousands of Yemenite babies” were taken by state officials.
The matter was forgotten over the years by most of the nation, but not for Meshulam and his followers, who remained determined to expose those responsible for “abducting the Yemenite children”. With the passing of time Meshulam and his people gathered evidence showing some of the babies who reportedly died were given for adoption to Ashkenazi families who were childless, including families in the United States.
The last state investigation probed hundreds of cases, releasing its findings in 2001. The government-appointment committee announced it was certain that in 733 cases the children has died as reported back then by state officials. In 56 cases, the evidence was lacking and it was possible that the children were put up for adoption.
Meshulam’s name gained national attention in 1994 when he and his followers holed up in a Yahud building. There were tens of followers with him and they were well armed. They had a list of demands, which included a fair state inquiry into the allegations, not a whitewash. On May 10, 1994 police surrounded the building, positioning sharpshooters in the area. Meshulam was invited to meet with Israel Police Chief Assaf Chafetz. When he left the compound, the order was given to move in. police arrested 11 of the Meshulam supporters. 19-year-old Shloimi Assulin was shot dead in the police operation.
Meshulam and his chassidim were indicted on a long list of charges. Rabbi Meshulam was sentenced to eight years imprisonment. The others were sentenced to imprisonment ranging from two months to five years.
As his health declined in prison, Meshulam received a presidential pardon from President Ezer Weizman following five years in prison. His condition continued to deteriorate since his release from prison. Some associates interviewed years ago alleged the state poisoned the rabbi and this resulted in his paralysis and other medical complications that eventually led to his death.
As a result of Meshulam’s actions, in 1995 a state inquiry into the disappearance of the Yemenite children was established. Supreme Court Justice Yaakov Kedmi headed the inquiry, which ruled that in the 56 cases cited earlier, the children may have been given up for adoption while it dismissed the other cases and Meshulam’s allegations that thousands of Yemenite babies were stolen from new arrivals to Israel.
(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)