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In Israel, a native Jew is called Sabra (prickly pear).
The Israeli-born is likened to the distinctive characteristics
of this cactus fruit: a prickly exterior but a tender heart. Israel's
need for natives in her early years as a nation produced an unwritten
law saying that any Jewish child who speaks his first words and
takes his first steps in Israel is a native.
I awaken in my rickety crib in a corner of our one-room wooden
shack discovering I am alone. Unlike other days, the shutters are closed.
In the half-dark room, thin slivers of light peek through two cracks in a
broken slat. I stand up in the crib and stare at the light slivers, waiting
and waiting in the empty silence. No one coming home, I begin to cry. Then
I scream, "Grandmother! Grandmo-o-the-er!" Hour after hoursitting, standing, lying down and then back on my feet againI keep screaming,
"Grandmo-o-the-er!..." No response. My voice becoming weary, I stop screaming
to sob. When I recover, I scream again. Still no one comes.
After some time, fright overtakes me and I resort to screaming louder,
hoping to be heard outside. With my remaining strength I keep at it, begging
for anyone's presence, to no avail. The light slivers disappear. I doze,
then awaken in the dark and scream until I am dizzy with frenzy.
My throat is sore; my body is now weak. The thick layers of rags pinned
on me in diaper fashion weigh heavy with wetness. I feel for a dry spot on
my mattress. I itch and sting all over my body. I am too frightened and too
tired to climb out of the crib. Wetter and hungrier, I scream myself to fretful
naps. Light slivers are appearing and disappearing. Waking... screaming...
dozing... Still no one comes. Waking, screaming, and dozing, I am reaching
the point when I no longer care about anything. Weaker and weaker, I just
want to close my eyes.
Suddenly, I am jolted awake as the door comes crashing in. A policeman
bursts through. Grandmother steps in, Father trailing behind. With renewed
strength, I reach out for comfort, but none comes. The only words I hear
are Grandmother's angry protests to the policeman. The only touch I feel
on my wet body is the chilling breeze from the broken doorway....
I was not quite three when this happened to me, and scarcely remember
the scandalous divorce that followed; the recurring nightmares of the abandonment
overshadowed it. Along with the devastating effects of this crisis, I grew
up tormented by Grandmother's explanation for why it happened. "Your lying,
selfish mother abandoned you for three days. Who knows what would have happened
if I hadn't rescued you!" Disappointed in my mother, I was grateful to
Grandmother, and glad for the divorce.
I remember how viciously the neighbors condemned and mocked me. Divorce
was a rare happening among Jews thena reproach deserving ostracism.
In those days we lived in the small town of Yaffo, the Biblical port of Joppa. We immigrated there from Europe in 1947, a year before Israel became
a nation again. I was an infant then. As for my mother, I cannot recall her
living with us, though she had.
Even before Grandmother took over, Father was serving in the Israeli Navy
and was seldom home. His absence added to my distress. Grandmother offered
no consolation for Father's absence. In fact, she was emphatically intolerant
of me and of my constant jabbering. More often than not, she sent me away
from her presence. At first, when she did that, I fled to my asphalt yard,
the street. There I watched peopleArabs and Jewspassing our house. There
was nowhere else for me to go when Grandmother shunned me in our one-room
abode. When she was in that kind of mood, home wasn't my home. Eventually,
I ventured off, barefoot and wearing ill-fitting clothes, to play with the
Arab children in our slum. Our street sloped down to the muddy, abandoned
seaport, and if I stood tall enough, I could see the ocean in the distance.
I avoided venturing that direction for the ocean frightened me. Rather, I
chose to walk uphill to play. All I had to play with, in the house or out,
were my thoughts. Contemplation became the dominant pastime in my life.
I was only four when Grandmother determined to send me to kindergarten.
I dreaded the prospect. Were it not for her unyielding grip on my bony wrist
when she took me to school that morning, I would have darted back home. One
stern look from the school registrar was enough to crush me. It sent me miles
away emotionally. Still unable to wriggle out of Grandmother's grip, I cowered.
"May I see her birth certificate, please?" she asked in broken German,
after Grandmother's apology for speaking no Hebrew.
"I'm sorry, we just haven't gotten around to sending for it from Germany.
Surely you can understand that after all I went through in Europe, I had
not had the nerve to write there. We purposely carried no birth certificate
when Yaffa was born. We were planning our illegal escape and she was concealed."
My personal predicament was twofold. Since Grandmother took over, I had
picked up German, the language she used at home with Father. I was thought
to know only Hungarian. Mentally, I was way ahead of my emotions and I understood
too much for my own welfare.
Lack of proof for my age brought immediate prejudice between the obviously
Israeli-born young registrar and my impatient European Grandmother of odd
behavior. The tension in their voices frightened me. When Grandmother needed
both of her hands to speak with emotion, I took full advantage. Instantly,
I slipped away and, choosing a far corner, I seated myself on the floor.
Thumb in mouth, I listened intently as the registrar spoke with suppressed
"We cannot accept your verbal claim that she is five," assured the registrar.
"Look how she behaveslike a two year-old. She would have difficulties with
other children at this time. Perhaps next year..."
"No! Grandmother pounded the desk, "I want her in school now!"
I snapped my thumb out of my mouth and cringed.
"But without documents she cannot attend public school. Legally, she does
not exist. We will be glad to help you send for the certificate if you give
us... just a moment... please don't leave..."
Grandmother whisked me out of the corner and I skated out the door behind
her, still processing in my mind the registrar's cruel comments. How devastating
it was to hear that I appeared like a two-year old, even though I was not
yet five, as Grandmother claimed.
I never knew she could walk so fast. We raced downhill, her fingers biting
into my arm. Fear gripped my heart as I ran, now and then leaping, to keep
up with her. I dared not slow down my overworked legs, else be dragged along
like a rag doll. She wasn't about to slow down for me. Wherever she was taking
me, she was in an awful hurry to get there.
The seaport! How could she? I broke into tears, staring at waves
as angry as I knew Grandmother was. Escape was impossible. My end is
coming... I closed my eyes.
Grandmother's heavy, labored breathing finally slowed her down but did
not stop her. Instead, she gave my weary, aching arm a disgusted jerk, and
we turned onto a side street. I snapped out of my dejected thoughts, and
gratefully decided that she was not going to throw me into the ocean. In
a moment, I found myself entering the doors of a strange, dingy little office.
A nun in black sat behind an old, battered desk. She greeted us with a silent,
I'd heard about the "haunted" convent from Arab neighbor children, and
was sorely afraid of those nuns. We children, Arab and Jewish alike,
superstitiously kept our distance from these dreaded "creatures." Seeing
no hands, no feet, and no neck, their covered heads looked unattached. To
us they were ghosts. Their pasty-white faces seemed to float atop the masses
of black clothing. It was the kind of thing we tan-faced children dared one
another to stare at from afar. Then we bolted home with pounding hearts.
An eery shiver attacked my little body when I heard Grandmother speaking
an unfamiliar language.
She's going to let the spooky foreign nuns keep me and I'll never return
Next I was led down to a musty green-walled room at the bottom of a long
flight of stairs. There, another pasty-white face stared at me. For the first
time I realized it had eyes, nose and mouth. The mouth opened and the "creature"
spoke to me. Petrified, my own mouth froze shut, my eyes searching for
Grandmother... She was gone..............
The above is an excerpt from chapter one of:
Yaffa, God's Prickly Pear, an autobiography by Yaffa McPherson.
Copyright © by Yaffa McPherson. All rights reserved.
At gunpoint, a reluctant Nazi doctor was forced to bring a Jewish infant into
the world... and that was just the beginning....
Yaffa, God's Prickly Pear is a captivating true story of a
tiny, undernourished infant who is concealed by her family and smuggled out
of war-torn Germany to pre-independent Israel.
This timid, vulnerable girl is caught in a ruthless whirlwind of historic
world-conflicts in the thick of family strife and calamity.
In this chaotic environment she is abandoned and grows up without her
mother in a loveless home. The truth about her background is withheld from
her by her family, but by the time she is eight she secretly knows parts
of the truth and sets out to uncover the rest, all the while tenaciously enduring the
harsh pioneering life of poverty, hunger, prejudice and political unsafety.
At age fourteen, after a series of family tragedies, she finds herself
immigrating to the United States against her will. Her life is not much
improved in America, but in the depths of her dejection she is confronted
by a mysterious man who, eventually, leads her to the God of her forefathers.
God further pursues Yaffa until her timidity turns into tenacity to overcome,
her pain over the "truth," at last, gone forever.
Yaffa, God's Prickly Pear is a story of endurance and personal
victory, sure to open the heart and remain in it long after the pages are
194 captivating pages, softbound
only $11.95 plus postage
"... I will never again cower when confronted with adversity... Discover
this hidden wisdom for yourself. I strongly urge everyone to read about Yaffa's
journey to the Messiah." Dean Wells Professional Actor Steubenville,Ohio
"God's Prickly Pear is the intriguing story of triumph over the
most adverse opposition a human being can encounter. Read it. You will be
blessed, inspired and challenged in your faith." Rev. Billy Skinner
Association of Evangelical Congregations Houston, Texas
"I read it in one sitting, and what a privilege it was 'meeting' you through
your incredible journey to your Messiah.... Yours encompasses the birth of
the Nation of Israel itself, the struggle of Zionism ... and the age old
conflict between the peoples of the Middle East." John Faulk, Director
of Creative Services CBN Television Virginia Beach, Virginia
"You will cry, laugh and rejoice. Then you will see your life in the
story. God's Prickly Pear not only tells the story of Yaffa but penetrates
deeply into all of our lives... Couldn't put it down." Rev. Ray Larson
Author and Senior Pastor Bethel Church Redding,
"...Her story is both heartbreaking and uplifting... a beacon of hope..."
Bookstore Journal (May 1993) Christian Booksellers
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