Handali originally acted as the intermediary of her spouse, Eliya Handali. His business was to provide jewellery, expensive clothing, and cosmetics to the harem of the Ottoman Empire in the sixteenth century. As a widow, she continued the business on her own.
The Ottoman harem women had no contact with the outside world, and dealt only with Jewish women as intermediaries in economic affairs; these Jewish women agents came to be known as kiras. Handali performed secretarial tasks for Roxelana. She also became the agent, secretary, and confidant of Nurbanu. It's said that they were lovers.
Ester Handali became very wealthy because of her position. Handali is reported to have been a great benefactor of orphans and widows. After the great fire of Istanbul in 1569, she provided help to those who lost their homes.
- History of the Turkish Jews and Sephardim: Memories of a Past Golden Age
- Lamdan, Ruth (2007). "Jewish Women as Providers in the Generations Following the Expulsion from Spain". Nashim: a Journal of Jewish Women's Studies and Gender Issues 13: 49-67.
- Emily Taitz, Sondra Henry & Cheryl Tallan, The JPS Guide to Jewish Women: 600 B.C.E.to 1900 C.E., 2003