Hebrew U. admits Yemenite testing goof

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JERUSLAEM — The DNA test that certified Margalit Omessi was the mother of Sacramento resident Tzila Levine was incorrect, the Hebrew University's genetics department now admits.

A researcher at the department had said in August that there was a 99.99 percent certainty that the two women of Yemenite origin were related, but the department admitted Tuesday that he was wrong.

A few months ago, Dr. Hasan Khatib's analysis of the two women's DNA was given as "proof" that Omessi, whose daughter disappeared during Israel's early days of statehood, was the mother of Levine, who grew up with adoptive parents on a kibbutz and then emigrated to California.

But more recently, the Health Ministry's Institute for Forensic Medicine at Abu Kabir, conducting a different DNA test, declared with "absolute certainty" that the women were not related at all.

After the Abu Kabir results were issued, Omessi and Levine declared they would never believe the new findings and would regard each other as mother and daughter. They charged the results were "just another example of state discrimination" against Yemenites over the decades.

Recently, the Israeli Health Ministry agreed to fund genetic testing for families of Yemenite children who allegedly disappeared during the early days of statehood.