Yemenite woman finds long-lost sister thanks to DNA testing

Yemenite woman finds long-lost sister thanks to DNA testing

Varda Fuchs, 67, says she was a victim of the Yemenite Children Affair; new genetic technology allowed her to track down her biological family

Sisters Ofra Mazor (L) and Varda Fuchs meet for the first time (Courtesy MyHeritage)
Sisters Ofra Mazor (L) and Varda Fuchs meet for the first time (Courtesy MyHeritage)

An Israeli woman of Yemenite descent who was adopted as a child in the 1950s was able to track down her biological relatives and reconnect with her sister and extended family this week using a DNA test.

Varda Fuchs, 67, says she was taken away from her biological family without their consent, as part of the so-called Yemenite Children Affair. Her parents were told that she had died.

“I’ve tried all these years to find my biological family and there were no documents,” she told Haaretz. “I searched for 40 years. There’s no evidence my mother signed any (adoption papers).

“To simply take a child away from its parents due to their financial situation is a crime.”

Fuchs used the MyHeritage website to try and track down relatives using DNA samples, and this week was notified that she had matched as a sibling to Ofra Mazor, 62.

MyHeritage has been encouraging Israelis of Yemenite origin to take DNA tests to try and locate lost relatives. The two sisters had separately done so.

The pair’s parents are no longer alive.

Watch the two sisters meet (Hebrew):

Mazor told Haaretz her mother had had a daughter, but was told that she had died. The parents always suspected, however, that they had been lied to, and believed their daughter could still be out there.

Fuchs, Mazor said, was the spitting image of their father’s side of the family.

Since the 1950s, more than 1,000 families — mostly immigrants from Yemen, but also dozens from the Balkans, North Africa and other Middle Eastern countries — have alleged their children were systematically kidnapped from Israeli hospitals and put up for adoption, sometimes abroad.

Deliberate kidnappings have never been proved. They have been disputed by scholars and seemingly refuted by three state commissions that examined the affair and concluded most of the children had died. Other cases were said to involve apparent clerical and medical errors.

But Mazor said she had no doubts about the matter.

“Of course it was done maliciously,” she said. “I hope this helps open up the story of the Yemenite children. These things need to be aired out.”

Fuchs said: “I would have liked to have met my parents while they lived.” But she was thankful for her “new family.”

On Tuesday Israeli authorities approved a request by families of Yemenite children who went missing decades ago to exhume remains from 17 graves for the purpose of genetic testing.

Lawmakers recently approved a bill allowing the families of children who went missing in 1948-1970 and were later declared dead by the authorities to seek court approval to open the graves for DNA authentication.

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