Dorit Rabinyan

Portrait Dorit Rabinyan
© Sharon Deri

Dorit Rabinyan was born in 1972 in Kfar Saba, to a Jewish family who had emigrated from Iran. The stories passed on to her by female relatives introduced her into the family’s past and Jewish life in Iran. After completing her military service as a journalist in the IDF magazine, and then for the Tel Aviv weekly »Ha’ir«, she published the first of three novels to date when she was just 22 years old.

In »Simtat Ha-Shkediyot Be-Oumrijan« (1995; Eng. »Persian Brides«, 1998) a fifteen-year-old girl recounts her grandmother’s life in the village of Omerijan, a »Persian shtetl«. Influenced by the Jewish-Iraqi writer Sami Michaels, Rabinyan decided that she would write a novel as a search for her own roots. Rabinyan’s second novel »Ha-Chatunot Shelanu« (1999; Eng. »Our Weddings«, 2011), which topped Israeli bestseller lists for several months, is a family saga in the Israeli narrative tradition. Here too, Rabinyan’s playful and sensuous imagery and polished writing style draws our gaze to world of the »Mizrahi« (»Oriental«) Jews: »Israeli literature is European. Protagonists with my family background hardly exist. My book finally gave them a voice in Israeli literature.« Rabinyan’s latest novel »Gader Haya« (2014; initially published in English as »All the Rivers«, 2017) is the story of a faltering relationship between an Israeli Jewish woman and a Palestinian artist who fall in love in New York. It sparked a heavy debate about censorship after the Israeli Ministry of Education refused to include the book in the national school curriculum for fear that it could encourage inter-marriage between Jews and Arabs and threaten »the separate identities [of Arabs and Jews]«. Rabinyan, who in the wake of this controversy was supported by Meir Shalev, Zeruya Shalev, Amos Oz, among others, saw it as a symptom of the divide between the artistic and political elites in Israel: »This is exactly why we read books, to liberate ourselves from slogans, from the great words of politicians.«

Rabinyan won the Jewish Quarterly-Wingate Prize in 1999 and the Israeli Publisher’s Association Bernstein Prize in 2015 for »Gader Haya«, which was also named one of the 10 best books of the year by the Israeli daily newspaper »Haaretz«. Her novels have been translated into a number of European languages. Rabinyan lives in Tel Aviv.