How the Palestinian ‘disappearance’ of a Jewish boy in the 1948 war ended in the ‘displacement’ of the rest of the Jewish people
After his parents were killed in the Second Lebanon War, Yisrael Ben-Makayya had no choice but to flee his hometown of Mea Shearim, in southern Lebanon, where he was born.
He arrived in Israel, where, for reasons that remain a mystery, he settled in the Kfar Saba refugee camp on the Jordan River.
But his life in the refugee camp soon changed forever when he was expelled to Gaza, where the military was preparing to invade in 1956.
After that, Ben-Meir disappeared for a while.
He was discovered in October 1960, in a tent with a mattress.
In October 1961, the Israeli military began an investigation, and after a few weeks of searching, they brought him home.
The army was furious.
He’d been expelled from his home, it said.
He didn’t belong in his own country.
But the Israeli public was not convinced.
After Ben-Menashe’s body was found in the tent in August 1962, his mother and his younger brother, who was born at the time, filed a lawsuit, demanding an explanation from the military and an apology from Ben-Manashe for his father’s disappearance.
In November 1962, Benjamin Ben-Messai was appointed chief of the Military Police, a post that became the military’s top official for investigation of the abduction.
On January 1, 1963, he issued an order that Ben-Bamsh, Ben Masek and Ben-Iman were to be “disappeared” and their bodies buried in a grave near the village of Nabi Saleh, south of Hebron.
Ben-Menamhe’s father, Ephraim, and mother, Nadia, were arrested, and the bodies were flown to Nablus.
It took months for the bodies to arrive.
At the end of January 1964, Eadon, who had been the head of the family since 1948, was elected the chief justice of the Israeli Supreme Court, a position he held until his death in 2002.
He died two days later, at the age of 93.
For many years, there was debate about the fate of the three boys who remained in Israel.
The most recent Israeli government decree, in 2015, allowed them to be buried in the cemetery of their family in the village, and to be shown to their families and friends on the occasion of Ben-Shahar’s funeral.
But Ben- Menamhe, who died in 2017, said that he never received any kind of formal request to open his father up to the public.
In fact, he said that the military told him that his father had been buried at a military cemetery in the nearby town of Ashkelon.
In the beginning, the issue was over the graves.
Ben- Messai said that after Ben-Khalil’s parents were buried, he and his father-in-law went to their family’s graves and prayed there for peace and justice.
After they left, he told me, he looked for Ben- Manashe, but the cemetery was closed, so he could not see him.
I have no idea why they took him away, he asked me.
He said, ‘Why did you take him away?’
It was obvious that his family was in a state of distress, he added.
And I asked him, ‘What did you do to him?’
Ben- Menashe said that when he asked the military for answers about Ben- Meir, they said they had no jurisdiction over the matter.
In his letter to the Supreme Court for his appeal, Ben Meir’s father said that his son’s case had nothing to do with his own family.
I can’t even imagine what it was like to see your children and your parents murdered.
And this was before the war, he wrote.
My family is very sorry that we were separated and disappeared, he concluded.
Ben Meir died on February 16, 2026, and his parents had to pay a high price for their son’s disappearance, as he was not buried at their graves in their own village.
He remains buried in Nablis Cemetery, along with the other remains of Ben Menashes parents, a family that is now a national treasure.
His father died of lung cancer in January 2028.
Ben Menashen is survived by his wife, Rula, and six children, including four grandchildren.