Empty Cradles: Israel’s Disappeared Children

A coffee and tea reception will be offered from 2pm.

Thousands of families in Israel are demanding to know what happened to their children. In Autumn 2022, a first-of-its-kind exhibition at the Brunei Gallery, SOAS, brought their story to an international audience in London. The disappeared children belonged to Jewish families who migrated to Israel from the Middle East and North Africa in the 1940s and 50s and were staying in temporary immigration camps. Over half of the children were from Yemen. The case has since become known as the Yemenite, Mizrahi, and Balkan Children Affair, a controversy which rages to this day in Israel. The state officially maintains that the children died, but the families were never shown bodies, graves, or death certificates. Instead, they believe their children were sent away to homes run by women’s organizations and in many cases illicitly adopted, perhaps even abroad. This talk will give an overview of the objectives, content, and curatorial process behind the exhibition, exploring some of the methodological and ethical challenges it raised. It will also place the Yemenite, Mizrahi, and Balkan Children Affair in transnational context, drawing attention to comparisons and connections with other episodes of forcible child removal across the world.