This is Adi Levy. He might be someone you wouldn't really notice. He collects metal and scraps and travels around on his bicycle.
When I met him in Oraqiva in Israel, it was one of the hottest days of the year, in the sun it was well over 40 degrees. Everyone was dripping in sweat and he was no exception.
Never judge a book by its cover. As I was sitting outside the Welfare office and child contact centre he stopped and noticed the flags and banners for walk4kids September 2015 asked if he could talk.
In 1977, he became the father of a baby boy. A joyous occasion for him and his wife. Then he received a phone call to say his baby son had died. He was only 2 kilo at birth, and he was informed the baby had been too small to survive. He was instructed to go to the town of Afula and identify the body.
Filled with grief, he arrived at the morgue, and was shown 4 bodies of babies. He relates how he was told to choose one – that it didn't matter which. Every instinct in him screamed that none of these babies were his.
It seemed impossible to believe initially, so he said he would get his documents and return. It took some time, and I'd almost forgotten him in the sweltering heat. He carried an old briefcase with all the documentation. His whole life in ragged and tattered pages. He showed a magazine article which had been printed, and then produced all the papers. He had always doubted the truth of his son's death. Three months after the event, he was called into the Betuach Leumi – the Social Security and told his payments had stopped. He had barely noticed his mail, and asked what it was all about. He was informed that as the baby had been adopted, he was no longer to receive any benefits for the child. He managed to look at the computer and got a glimpse of the city, but nothing much more. He made a decision that he would find his son and searched for over 12 years.
Adi proceeded to write many letters – to the Department of Health, the Ministry of Interior. Endless enquiries. The answers were varied. One letter informed him the baby had been born on 2nd December, died on 3rd December and buried in June the following year. This is an impossibility in Jewish law. Another letter informed him that checks had been made for a two year period and hi showed no infant deaths during that time and a year after. Another document even mentioned he had a girl, not a boy.
It became his life. To search for his son. A death certificate was finally produced in 1991 – 14 years after the birth of his boy. He finally found his son. Adi says he is an Iraqi Jew, and perhaps they mistook him for a Yemenite Jew, given the scandals of the stolen babies.
He used to be a singer. He was a man full of joy he said. He went on to have further children, but as he carries around all the documents in a worn briefcase, it is clear that his child never did die.
He is at peace knowing he found his son and talked to him, but his life was changed – the moment he was told his child was dead.
The practice of taking children in Israel is still happening to this day – the fight against the Welfare in Israel continues as it has now been declared over 300,000 children are at risk, and evidence of children being taken from fit parents is mounting.
Adi is grateful for the time and respect he has been given, and gets on his bicycle – his journey has been vindicated, but the heartbreak of a stolen life will stay with him until his own death.