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The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem

Sarit Yishai-Levi


This Israeli bestseller is a multi-generational saga of Jerusalem, extending from the early 20th century when the Turks ruled Palestine, through the years of the British Mandate and the establishment of the State of Israel, to the early 1970s. It is the story of the Ermoza family, respected Sephardic Jews who own a delicatessen in the Jerusalem market. The narrator is Gabriela, the wild, rebellious daughter of Luna, known as “The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem.” Gabriela gradually reveals the family secrets and lies, but mainly the inner strengths that family members have to summon in order to overcome the ups and downs of life along the way.
A curse seems to hang over the Ermoza family, for the men know great love but have to renounce it and marry women that they do not love. Rafael, Gabriela’s great-grandfather, fell in love with a mysterious, blue-eyed Ashkenazi girl—shameful!—but was prevailed on to marry frigid Merkeda who did not attract him at all. His handsome, clever son Gabriel is forced to marry Rosa, an ugly and illiterate orphan, and Rosa’s daughter Luna, courted by all the young men in Jerusalem, picks David who cannot forget his love for a girl that he met in Italy during World War II.
A colorful, rich and enjoyable novel in which Jerusalem and its historic events during the last century play a leading role.

Exquisitely rich in history and detail… Poignant and intriguing book.

Historical Novel Society

Fans of Gabriel Garcia Marquez will find much to love in “The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem.”  The narrative is lush and rife with scandalous secrets of a passionately opinionated family that might find it easier to free themselves from the clutches of war, than from the Ermoza curse inflicted upon them.
The Jewish Journal

Passion and the grand sweep of history permeate this dazzling you-cannot-put-it-down novel about four generations of astonishing women--and the men in their family who just might be cursed by love. So rich and vibrant, that every page seems to virtually breathe.

Author Caroline Leavitt

...Her triumph lies in showing Israel’s unique challenge: to assemble its balkanized communities into a coherent whole.

Beautiful, sweeping…an enchanting, moving book…The characters stayed with me, as if they were still living in Jerusalem.


The surprise of the year, if not the decade… Everything is so alive…What marvelous writing…what insight and passion!


This is the Sephardi version of Amos Oz’s A Tale of Love and Darkness…Superb.

Nana 10

A gripping plot full of secrets, lies, loves and disappointments…A pleasure.


Sharing interesting incidents of Jerusalem’s history of the past century with a rich and playful language Sarit Yishai-Levi is taking the reader to a blissful journey.
Salom Magazine


With its flowing style book reflects the conflicts between members of a family in war times and material and spiritual effects of war comprehensively.
Ayrac Magazine 



Highly recommended.

Booklist (starred review)


A compelling and meticulously researched historical backdrop…A romantic and engaging novel.

Jewish Book Council


A great family novel.

Frankfurter Rundschau

The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem
Title The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem
Author’s Last Name Yishai-Levi
Author's First Name Sarit
Language(s) English, German, Italian, Turkish
Genre novel
Publisher (Hebrew) Modan
Year of Publication (Hebrew) 2013
No. Pages 448 pp.
Book title - Hebrew (phonetic) Malkat Ha-Yofi Shel Yerushalayim
Representation Represented by ITHL


Italian: Rome, Sonzogno/RCS, 2015
Turkish: Istanbul, Koton, 2015
German: Berlin, Aufbau, 2016; pback, 2017

English: New York, St. Martin's Press, 2016

Russian: Moscow, Knizhniki, 2022 

French: Paris, Charlston/Ledoc, forthcoming

Romanian: Bucarest, Trei, forthcoming

Polish: Krakow, Znak, forthcoming

Lithuanian: Vilnius, Sofoklis, forthcoming

Hungarian: Budapest ,Kossuth, forthcoming

Spanish: Madrid, Maeva, forthcoming