Pnina Gary (Hebrew: פנינה גרי‎‎; born September 24, 1927) is an Israeli theatre and movie actress, and a theatre director.

Personal life

She was born and raised in Nahalal, Mandatory Palestine, as Pnina Dromi, daughter of Yosef Dromi (previously Kotlar) and Tzipora Ostrowski. Her parents made aliyah from the Ukraine in 1919. Gary went to Nahalal's Agricultural High School, and later attended the teachers' seminar to become a kindergarten teacher.

In March 1948, during Israel's war for independence, just a few days before she was supposed to marry Eli, the son of Rachel Yanait and Yitzhak Ben-Zvi (later to be the second president of Israel), her Palmach member husband-to-be was killed in an Arab ambush in the fields of Beit Keshet, their Kibbutz.[1]

In September 1948, trying to recover from the outcome of the Beit Keshet battle, she volunteered to participate in an expedition of teachers to the DP camps around Munich. She was sent to help set up kindergartens in the camps and work with Jewish children who survived the Holocaust. Six months later, she was sent to reside in Ulm, in order to do the same work in the DP camps around Stuttgart.

In Munich she met her husband, Robert Gary, a Jewish American journalist, who reported from the camps. They married in Germany in late 1949 and two weeks later moved to Israel. Pnina and Bob had two daughters, Dorit and Meirav.

While living in Israel, Pnina Gary wrote a weekly column for Davar newspaper for a period of two years.

Artistic career

Pnina Gary in New York, 1953

From 1953 through 1957 Gary studied acting in New York, in the private schools of Herbert Berghof and Lee Strasberg, and took lessons in the Actors Studio.

After their return to Israel, in 1959 Gary co founded the Zavit Theater, which was active for nine years and among others produced Jean-Paul Sartre's "No Exit", featuring Gary herself.[2] During those years, she also acted in various theater shows produced by other theaters in Tel Aviv.

In 1968 Gary joined HaBima as an actress, until 1980. From 1981 through 1990 she was the artistic director of the Orna Porat Theater.

Gary adapted a number of novels to theater, by the most renowned Israeli novelists: Amos Oz, Sami Michael, Shulamit Lapid, Tzruya Shalev and Agnon.

Pnina Gary's movie appearances as an actress include: The Dock (1960),[3] Dreams (1969),[4] Death Has No Friends (1970),[5] Ariana (1971)[6] and the BBC's "A Dinner of Herbs" (1988).[7][8]

In 2006 she received an award for her life's work from both the Israeli Ministry of Culture and Education and ASSITEJ.

In 2008, Gary wrote and directed the one-woman showAn Israeli Love Story”, based on her own true life story between 1942, when she first met Eli Ben-Zvi, and 1948, with the tragic ending of their relationship. The play is still performed by Adi Bielski, who won the Israeli Best Actress Award in Fringe Theater in 2009.[9]

On March 28, 2011, a special evening marked the celebrating of 250 shows. Attending that evening, were the Israeli Minister of Culture, Mrs Limor Livnat, and the recent winner of the Israeli Sapir Prize for Literature 2011, the writer Yoram Kaniuk.

The play was translated to English and performed at The Leeds Jewish International Performing Arts Festival in 2009, at London's New End Theatre from May 18 to June 6, 2010,[10] and at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa[11][12][13] as well as Montreal,[14]Toronto[15] and Washington, DC,[16][17][18] in September 2011. The show was also performed in the Harold Green Jewish Theatre in Toronto in 2014.[19]

In 2011 Gary directed "Tmol Shilshom" (Only Yesterday), the novel by Shmuel Yosef Agnon which she adapted to theatre, and in 2012 Gary staged "My Name is Yuda", a poetry theater show based on the poems of Yehuda Amichai, which also featured Adi Bielski.[20]

In 2013 Gary directed in Paris the French production of "An Israeli Love Story" (in French) under the name "Une histoire d'amour israélienne", played by the French actress Estelle Grynszpan.[21]

In 2015 Gary published an autobiographical novel in Hebrew under the same title as the Hebrew title of the monodrama "An Israeli Love Story". The book was published under Schocken Books.


Pnina Gary as Estelle Rigault in "No Exit", Tel-Aviv 1958
  1. ^ Love in troubled times, Yocheved Miriam Russo, The Jerusalem Post, April 2, 2010
  2. ^ McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of World Drama, 1984. Page 322.
  3. ^ "The Dock", @
  4. ^ Dreams at the Internet Movie Database
  5. ^ Death Has No Friends at the Internet Movie Database
  6. ^ Ariana at the Internet Movie Database
  7. ^ A Dinner of Herbs at the Internet Movie Database
  8. ^ A Dinner of Herbs at BFI, Film & TV Database
  9. ^ An Israeli Love Story at
  10. ^ An Israeli Love Story What's On at the New End Theatre
  11. ^ An Israeli Love Story in Ottawa by Jennifer Mcintosh, Aug 24, 2011, Your Ottawa Region
  12. ^ An Israeli Love Story Coming to Ottawa Sept. 7-8 by Sabine Gibbins, Sep 1, 2011, Ottawa South EMC
  13. ^ A bounty of plays this month by Patrick Langston, Sep 4, 2011, The Ottawa Citizen
  14. ^ Israeli play comes to Montreal Sep 6, 2011, The Jewish Tribune
  15. ^ Israeli Love Story – September 15 Aug 29, 2011, Shalom Canada
  16. ^ ‘An Israeli Love Story’ – about love and Israel by Lisa Traiger, Sep 7, 2011, Washington Jewish Week
  17. ^ About Love and Israel – An Israeli Love Story by Laura Cutler, Sep 9, 2011, American University website
  18. ^ One woman production depicts epic ‘love story’ by Katie Castellano, Sep 20, 2011, The Eagle
  19. ^ An Israeli Love Story at Toronto Centre for the Arts website
  20. ^ "My Name is Yuda": The Poetry of Yehuda Amichai at Tzavta by Ayelet Dekel, May 15, 2012, at
  21. ^ "Une histoire d'amour israélienne", at "Théâtre Darius Milhaud" website

External links