From "Missing" to "Kidnapped": The Framing of the Yemenite Children Affair

From "Missing" to "Kidnapped": The Framing of the Yemenite Children Affair

Young Jewish Yemenite mother with her children in Hashed Camp. (Photo: Israeli Governmental Press Office/Eldan David)

Tuesday, January 23, 2018
1:00 PM - 2:15 PM
6275 Bunche Hall

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Co-sponsored by the UCLA Department of History, Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, and the Center for Near Eastern Studies.

The Yemenite Children Affair—the mysterious disappearance of infants and young children, most of them of Yemenite background, in the early days of Israeli statehood—has attracted much public attention in recent decades. Among other things, it led the Israeli government to establish three commissions of inquiry, which non-consecutively investigated the affair between 1967 and 2001. To date, none of the commissions, nor any other body or person, has been able to fully clarify the affair.

In this talk, Dr. Nadav Molchadsky will explore the incubation of the affair since the early 1950s—when public awareness of it was extremely low—to late 2016, when more than 80 percent of Israeli society was aware of it and believed that the Israeli governments instigated and administered the kidnapping of the children (a position that each one of the three inquiries totally rejected). He suggests that despite substantial differences between the two main explanations of the affair—the kidnapping allegation on the one hand, and the state's narrative, on the other hand—both of them are teleological by nature and based on the circumstantial interpretation of partial information. Moreover, the missing children affair constitutes a unique case study in which commissions of inquiry unintentionally forged a collective memory that contradicted their own historical reading.

About the Speaker

Nadav Molchadsky, Ph.D. specializes in modern Jewish history, history of Zionism and the State of Israel. His research sheds new light on the complex web of relations among history, historiography, politics and law. Molchadsky has a special interest in processes of collective memory formation and commissions of inquiry, particularly state and military.

The case studies he has written and lectured about cover a wide spectrum of topics that shocked the Yishuv (the pre-state Jewish community of Palestine) and Israel to their foundations. These topics include the affair of the Arlosoroff murder, the 1948 War, the Yom Kippur War, the riots of October 2000, and the Yemenite Children Affair—all of which led to the establishment of commissions of inquiry. By applying a comparative analysis, Molchadsky's studies open a vista into the ways in which a national society such as Israel, processes and negotiates its past and its memory of it.

Molchadsky earned his B.A. (Magna Cum Laude) in Jewish history and Political Science from Tel-Aviv University. He did his Master's and Ph.D. in history at UCLA. During the 2015-2106 academic year he was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the UCLA Nazarian Center, where he teaches courses on Israeli history and culture.

Sponsor(s): Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for Israel Studies, Center for Near Eastern Studies, Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, Department of History