An Israeli actor prominent for her portrayal of Esther in Oscar-nominated film ‘Ben-Hur,’ Haya Harareet’s acting career spanned two decades, witnessing both highs & lows. The eldest of the three children in her family, Haya was born on 20 September 1931, in Haifa, a part of what was earlier known as Mandatory Palestine, now proclaimed Israel. With a majority of the Israeli population emigrating from Poland to Israel, Yocheved & Reuben Neuberg, her mother & father did so due to the unrest in their homeland. Her father worked for a government organisation in what was then known as Tel Aviv.
This beautiful actress caused a stir at the start of her career, starring in Israeli movies like ‘Hill 24 Doesn’t Answer’, ‘The Doll That Took The Town,’ etc. with few of her works going on to be nominated for prestigious awards such as Palme D’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. Her big break came opposite
in 1959, in Ben-Hur. One of the best movies of its time, the film went on to bag a record eleven Oscars & Harareet did well in her portrayal of Esther. Several columns & magazines were very vocal about their appreciation for this debutant actor. In her first appearance on the grand stage, that too in such a widely publicised film, Harareet emerged as a performer of stature.
Playing the daughter of Simonides, she added a new layer to the former slave; depth to a character that displayed her as sensitive & revealing, a feat, which actors in the former adaptations of the movie had failed to pull off. Her remarkable beauty & striking appearance made her an instant hit with the American audience, with the youngster gaining a legion of fans in her first ever role. Her role as Miriam Mizrahi was appreciated, in the film ‘Hill 24 Doesn’t Answer’, in 1955, but the applause was limited to her native audience since it was an Israeli piece.
Anna Grimaldi brought her acting prowess on a different level, giving the 1957 Italian flick ‘The Doll That Took the Town’ its needed subtlety. ‘Ben-Hur’ in 1959 showed the world Esther, a beauty with depth & profundity. Her first British role came in 1961, through Nicole Brent in ‘The Secret Partner,’ which gave the British a taste of how talented the actor was. In the same year, she acted as Queen Antinea in ‘Journey beneath the Desert,’ an Italian & French co-production.
Other notable works of hers included Dr Madolyn Bruckner in 1962 film ‘The Interns,’ Flamma in ‘The Last Charge,’ & Claudia in L’ultima Garcia. Her last role was in the 1974 flick ‘My Friend Jonathan.’ Haya was married twice, first to an Israeli irrigation engineer Nachman Zerwanitzer, with whom she lived in Tel Aviv until their divorce in 1961. Her second husband was renowned British director Jack Clayton. Married in the year 1984, in the Wycombe district, Buckinghamshire in England, the two stayed together until Clayton’s premature death in 1995. The actor currently lives alone in Buckinghamshire.