Yoel Hoffmann was born in 1937, in Brasov, Romania. He was a son of Austro-Hungarian Jewish parents. At the age of one Hoffmann and his parents fled a Europe increasingly under the Nazi influence for the British Mandate of Palestine. Shortly after the move, Hoffmann's mother died and he was entrusted by his father to an orphanage where he spent his time until his father re-married. His mother's early death and the years spent boarding with family members and in a children's home figure prominently in his work.