Haya Harareet

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Haya Harareet
Haya Harareet - 1960.jpg
Harareet in 1960
Haya Neuberg

(1931-09-20)20 September 1931
Haifa, Mandatory Palestine (present-day Israel)
Died3 February 2021(2021-02-03) (aged 89)
Other namesHaya Hararit
Haya Harareet-Clayton
OccupationActress, Screenwriter
Years active1955–1974
Nachman Zerwanitzer

(m. 1984; died 1995)

Haya Harareet (Hebrew: חיה הררית‎) (20 September 1931 – 3 February 2021[1]) was an Israeli actress and screenwriter. She is best remembered for playing Esther, Ben Hur's love interest in the eponymous 1959 film.[2]

Early life[edit]

Harareet was born Haya Neuberg (Hebrew: חיה נויברג‎) in Haifa, in what was then Mandatory Palestine (now Israel), the second of three children.[3] Her parents, Reuben and Yocheved Neuberg, emigrated to the pre-Israeli Yishuv community of Palestine from Poland when they were young.[3] Her father worked for the government in Tel Aviv.[3] She received the surname Hararit (later changed to Harareet), which means "mountainous" in Hebrew, at school.[4]


Harareet preparing for a play in Israel (1954)
Harareet in the official trailer for Ben-Hur (1959)
Harareet at a press conference for Ben-Hur in Amsterdam, Netherlands (1960)

Harareet began her career in Israeli films with Hill 24 Doesn't Answer (1955), which was nominated for the Palme d'Or at the 1955 Cannes Film Festival. She played opposite Virna Lisi in Francesco Maselli's The Doll that Took the Town (1957), an Italian film. Her major role as Esther in Ben-Hur (1959) remained her most widely remembered performance in international cinema. Variety, in its review of Ben-Hur, praised Harareet's performance:

Haya Harareet, an Israeli actress making her first appearance in an American film, emerges as a performer of stature. Her portrayal of Esther, the former slave and daughter of Simonides, steward of the House of Hur, is sensitive and revealing. Wyler presumably deserves considerable credit for taking a chance on an unknown. She has a striking appearance and represents a welcome departure from the standard Hollywood ingenue.[5]

Then came 1961's L'Atlantide [fr] (Journey Beneath The Desert, aka The Lost Kingdom), directed by Edgar G. Ulmer and co-starring Jean-Louis Trintignant. She appeared opposite Stewart Granger in Basil Dearden's film The Secret Partner (1961), and she played the role of Dr. Madolyn Bruckner in The Interns (1962).

She co-wrote the screenplay for Our Mother's House (1967), from the novel of the same name by Julian Gloag.

Personal life and death[edit]

Harareet's first husband was Nachman Zerwanitzer, an Israeli irrigation engineer.[6] They lived in an apartment in Tel Aviv and were divorced sometime before 1961.[7]

Harareet's second husband was British film director Jack Clayton. They were married in Wycombe District, Buckinghamshire, England, in 1984.[8]

On 3 February 2021, Harareet died at her home in Marlow, Buckinghamshire, England, at age 89.[1] At the time of her death, she was the last surviving credited cast member of Ben Hur.


Year Title Role Notes
1955 Hill 24 Doesn't Answer (Giv'a 24 Eina Ona) Miriam Miszrahi Israeli film
1957 The Doll That Took the Town (La donna del giorno) Anna Grimaldi First Italian film
1959 Ben-Hur Esther First American film
1961 The Secret Partner Nicole "Nikki" Brent British film
1961 Journey Beneath the Desert (Antinea, l'amante della città sepolta) Queen Antinea Italian-French co-production
1962 The Interns Dr. Madolyn Bruckner Second and final American film
1962 The Last Charge (La leggenda di Fra Diavolo) Fiamma Italian film
1964 L'ultima carica Claudia Italian film
1974 My Friend Jonathan Second and final British film


  1. ^ a b c Anderman, Nirit (3 February 2021). "'Ben-Hur' Star, Israeli Actress Haya Harareet, Dies". Haaretz. Retrieved 3 February 2021.
  2. ^ Burton, Alan; O'Sullivan, Tim (2009). The Cinema of Basil Dearden and Michael Relph. Edinburgh University Press. pp. 135–. ISBN 978-0-7486-3289-3 – via Google Books.
  3. ^ a b c Mayfair, Martha (3 February 1960). "Ben-Hur's Beauty Advocates Simple Grooming". The Evening Independent. p. 1-C. Retrieved 9 June 2016 – via Google News Archive.
  4. ^ "Haya Harareet". Coronet. 47 (3). 1960. Retrieved 9 June 2016 – via Google Books.
  5. ^ Holloway, Ronald (17 November 1959). "Film Reviews: 'Ben-Hur'". Variety. Retrieved 4 February 2017.
  6. ^ "Overnight to Stardom". Independent Press-Telegram. 15 November 1959. p. 10. Retrieved 4 February 2017 – via Newspapers.com.
  7. ^ "Israeli Movie Star May Quit Hollywood and Return 'Home'". The National Jewish Post and Opinion. 10 March 1961. p. 5. Retrieved 4 February 2017.
  8. ^ "Haya Harareet mentioned in the record of Clayton and Haya Harareet". FamilySearch. Retrieved 9 June 2016.

External links[edit]