Sarit Yishai-Levi is a bestselling author and household name in Israel.
She is a truly gifted storyteller who leads one through the forest of her imagination and through the mountain peaks of truth. As a journalist and now a novelist, she successfully has written both fiction and non-fiction to the delight of many people.
She appeared on the Miami-Dade College Wolfson Campus Auditorium’s stage on Nov. 16 to present her new novel, The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem. The book follows the lives of four generations of outstanding, brave and strong Israeli women against a backdrop of Hollywood, war and constant change.
She described the shock that surrounded her choosing Jerusalem for the setting of her novel.
“Jerusalem is a very serious city. I was always fascinated by the lightness of Tel Aviv, which was a more easy-going kind of city. That’s why there’s no one more surprised than me when I set to write my first novel and instead of writing about Tel Aviv, which is my city, I found myself writing about Jerusalem,” she told the audience.
As she spoke, there was a warmth and candor to her speech that was touching and inspiring. Yishai-Levi spoke with humility and strength of her experience as a war correspondent in Tel Aviv. She told the spellbound audience of her interview with Yasser Arafat. She was the first Israeli journalist to interview the man who was then the greatest enemy of the Israeli people. Because of her persistence and audacity during that 1982 interview, she was able to provide for the release of an Israeli Prisoner of War held by Arafat.
Her dream of being an author was silenced for many years. She said that although she did not kill that dream, she did “put it to sleep.” But, the dream still haunted her. When she finally yielded to the dream’s insistence, she was rewarded immediately.
“I can tell you that writing was fascinating. I can tell you that I write with such pleasure. Some people say you write out of pain and it’s difficult to write; for me, it was a beautiful, beautiful journey,” Yishai-Levi said.
She performed considerable research for the book staying at the newspaper archives to understand how Jerusalem spoke and lived during the time covered in the novel.
Her novel has met with unprecedented success. She said that she was especially gratified by the reactions of the people who read the book because the book has not become a success because of critical acclaim or media campaigns, but has climbed the selling charts based on word-of-mouth.
But for her the real measure of success comes with the fact that she has been able to realize her dream. She closed her presentation with the following admonition to everyone who was gathered to hear short woman with the big heart speak about her beautiful book.
“My book was published in an age when most people are retiring. Even if they have a dream, they believe that they cannot achieve it anymore. I want to tell you, to urge you that if you have a dream, fulfill it. Please pursue it. In my opinion, age is just a number that you put on your ID.”