Feb 18, 2011

The Real Yuvi

Kar-Ben is proud to announce the release of new books for Spring 2011! One standout is Yuvi's Candy Tree by Lesley Simpson. We asked Lesley to shed some light on her inspiration for writing the book. Thanks Lesley!

Yuvi’s Candy Tree is a fictional story based on the true story of Yuvi Tashome.

In Ethiopia, Yuvi Tashome’s name was Yeuvmert which, in Amharic, means “a good or beautiful product.” Yuvi was given a Hebrew name when she moved to Israel. To recover her history, she reclaimed her name, but shortened it to Yuvi.

Tashome escaped from Ethiopia to a Sudanese refugee camp. She was later airlifted to Israel as part of Operation Moses, one of several secret rescue operations in the 1980s and 1990s.

Israel’s Law of Return says Jews have the right to return to Israel. The Ethiopian Jews viewed Israel as their home. But they risked their lives to return. Thousands died on the way. Their journey was dangerous because of murder, disease, poor health and prejudice.

I first met Tashome during Passover when Jews tell the story of the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt. Tashome had come to Toronto as a guest of the New Israel Fund. The New Israel Fund was trying to raise awareness about the challenges faced by the Ethiopian Jews in Israel. She had just completed the American part of her speaking tour when the American economy collapsed. But she remained hopeful.

Tashome had created a program in Israel in the neighborhood where she lived to try to keep high-risk Ethiopian youth in school. The kids were facing prejudice as well as a difficulty adjusting from a rural economy into high tech culture. During that evening, she told how she escaped from Ethiopia on a donkey with her grandmother. I wanted to learn more. I later set up a private interview with her in Toronto. I had just hosted my first Seder. When Tashome told her story I felt as if the Haggadah was literally coming alive before my eyes. Here was a real woman, now a mother, pregnant with her next child, eating matzah for breakfast, who had survived against impossible odds, and was now working to make the world a better place for her community.

I wanted to honor her story, and celebrate her life.

Lesley Simpson is a Canadian journalist and picture book writer. Her previous books include The Shabbat Box and The Purim Surprise. Lesley has taught journalism and creative writing at Canadian universities. She lives in Toronto, Canada.