Miriam’s story

In the past 14 years, Miriam Dubi-Gazan has written 700 books about other people’s lives.

Miriam Dubi-Gazan (left) and her assistant Nirit Norman 521 (photo credit: Noreen Sadik)
Miriam Dubi-Gazan (left) and her assistant Nirit Norman 521
(photo credit: Noreen Sadik)
Once upon a time, in a land far away, there lived a little girl. Tired of war and inequality, she moved to Israel to begin a new life. One night she had a dream, and in that dream, an idea came to her of how she could make a contribution to society. She realized that writing was what she loved most, and that she was going to be a storyteller. Her name is Miriam Dubi-Gazan.
Dubi-Gazan, a Dutch Holocaust survivor, has turned her love of writing into a lucrative business. But it is not just any business. Through her company, Docostory, she has documented hundreds of people’s life stories, moving their life experiences from their memories to the pages of books.
Books cover the glass coffee table in her Ra’anana living room, and in the office a floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall bookshelf bursts with more books. Nirit Norman, her ever-efficient right-hand woman, makes sure that everything runs smoothly, and Tooli the orange cat sleeps on the pale green couch, oblivious to having a stranger next to him.
In this cozy atmosphere, Dubi-Gazan shares her own memories and relates how she started her business.
“I was born in hiding in Amsterdam on a special day, on March 12, 1945, which is the day they think that Anne Frank died,” she says. “I took it as a sign that my whole life is in that single hope.”
At the tender age of five, she knew she wanted to live in Israel. It was known, she says, that “the Dutch did not behave that nicely with Jews, and I did not want to live in a country where I was not equal, where I was a second-class citizen.”
She continues, “People do not realize that it was not just those who were in camps who suffered. Those in hiding suffered, too. My parents moved 23 times, and my mother had two children while in hiding.”
Carrying a lot of anger, she packed her suitcase when she was 17 and left her family and country behind to start a new life.
Living on a kibbutz introduced her to a different lifestyle. Since she knew Hebrew, she taught the language to the newcomers, and she met many Russian immigrants and listened to their stories. It was then that “some kind of idea that these stories should be documented was born,” she explains.
The years passed, and she decided to study. She received BAs in history and Jewish history from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, then married an archeologist, with whom she had two daughters.
Various jobs, including directing an absorption center for new immigrants in Beersheba, managing workshops for the blind in Ra’anana, and working for WIZO, kept her very busy.
However, reading and writing was in her blood. She had come to Israel with the intention of being a journalist and writer, and decided that “I was going to realize that dream.” She received her MAs in journalism and gerontology from Tel Aviv University and worked with major news networks, in addition to giving a local news report for a Dutch radio program, which she continues to do.
Then, she recalls, “one morning in August 1997, I woke up and said, ‘Eureka!’” She had made a decision: She was going to open a business and write the history of 20th-century Jews.
“This is called ‘oral history,’ and it is taught on all college campuses,” she explains. “From it, we can learn about all subjects – history, economics, social history.”
Months later, Docostory was born. She spoke with editors and publishers and learned everything she could about writing oral histories. Working alone forced her to learn every aspect of the business.
“When I first started, if people asked to see a book, I would take one from their library and say, ‘It will be like this,’” she remembers, laughing. Her first book holds special memories for her.
“It was the story of a Dutchman, a Holocaust survivor, who as a 15-year-old boy had survived four concentration camps,” she says. He had written the book, but wanted it translated into Hebrew. Shortly after speaking to her about it, he died, and his wife followed through on his wishes.
“He had not told his four sons, or any friend or family about his experiences during the Holocaust,” Dubi-Gazan says. The man’s son gratefully told her, “Finally I can read what my father went through.”
“This sentence was my greatest reward, because it was symbolic of the second generation of [Holocaust survivors],” she says.
SHE HAS since written 700 books, and although most of them are life stories (not necessarily about Holocaust survivors), she also writes about well-known businesses, sites and schools. As her business grew, she acquired a team of 35 freelance writers.