Civil melancholia: Yemenite Jews’ responses to the kidnapping of their children

Tova Gamliel*, Haim Hazan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


During Yemenite Jews’ stay in Israeli transit camps during 1948–1950, many of their children disappeared in the so-called “Yemenite Children Affair,” undermining the immigrants’ faith in the redemptive ethos of Zionism. To better understand this collective trauma, we return to the original Freudian conceptualization of melancholia as “failed mourning,” locating it within the ethnographic context of the Yemenite Children Affair and integrating its private/individual and public/collective aspects. Moreover, we provide a novel historical reading that integrates the individual loss of children and the collective lack of civic recognition. We use the term “civil melancholia” to reflect on the lingering, hurtful group experience of being overlooked (as refugees and parents) and the continuing collective predicament as “second-rate citizens.” By conceptualizing this civil melancholia and its cultural nuances, the analysis enhances the discussion of cultural traumas and their intergenerational transmission among contemporary ethnic immigrant groups.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)449-464
Number of pages16
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • Israel
  • Yemenite Jews
  • civil melancholia
  • cultural trauma


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