Yaffa, God's Prickly Pear

a captivating true story
of endurance and triumph


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About the Title

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.


chapter one

Earliest Recollections

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 hour—sitting, standing, lying down and then back on my feet again—I 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 then—a 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 people—Arabs and Jews—passing 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 aggravation.

"We cannot accept your verbal claim that she is five," assured the registrar. "Look how she behaves—like 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, religious nod.

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 home.

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..............

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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.

Book Summary

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 closed.

Great Christian reading and a great gift idea!

194 captivating pages, softbound

—— only $11.95 plus postage ——


A sampling of readers' comments...

"... 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 PastorBethel Church — Redding, California

"...Her story is both heartbreaking and uplifting... a beacon of hope..." Bookstore Journal (May 1993)— Christian Booksellers Association — Colorado Springs, Colorado


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Another item of interest:

  • Learn Hebrew! — Easy Hebrew™ Correspondence Coursefor CHRISTIANS who long to know HEBREW. Yaffa's unique, friendly but complete, language course designed specifically for Christians. The Hebrew learning program for Christians who long for spiritual insight into the Bible and a working knowledge of Hebrew, instead of dry, difficult academia.


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