The Children of Yemen: Bodies, Medicalization, and Nation-Building

Abstract

Yemenite Jews were among the many immigrants from Arab countries who were flown to Israel after its establishment in 1948. Following many complaints regarding the disappearance of Yemenite children from hospitals and schools in the transit camps where the new immigrants were kept in the 1950s, a governmental investigation committee was established in 1995. This article provides a preliminary description, from an anthropological perspective, of what is called in Israel the “Yemenite children affair.” My analysis focuses on interviews with Yemenite Jews, describing how the bodies of new immigrants were medicalized and commodified and how immigrants and their families have come to resist these processes. I then focus on the role of the Israeli medical profession in promoting national goals and maintaining collective identity.