Of Moroccan descent, her mother was a beautician and her father a financier for the Israeli postal service. Ronit Elkabetz first studied to be a stylist, but at 25, she was beckoned to audition for "Le Prédestiné" by Daniel Wachsmann, obtaining the lead role. She had never studied the dramatic arts before. Her subsequent choice of roles was courageous (drug addict in "Eddie King", experimental film by Giddi Dar, slightly retarded in "Sh'chur" by Shmuel Hasfari). In 2004, she declared, "I was never attracted to the roles for beautiful women; I prefer the difficulty, the jaded side, that which disturbs and bleeds."
Today, she is Israel's most celebrated actress. In 1997, Ronit Elkabetz moved to Paris joining briefly the Théâtre du Soleil under the direction of Ariane Mnouchkine. Her performance in a show on the choregrapher Martha Graham and her role as a transvestite in "Made in France" brought her into the limelight, all the while continuing to land roles in films in Israel: divorced mother and passionate lover in "Late Marriage", a simpleton mother/prostitute in "Or (My Treasure)" which won the Camera d'Or at Cannes 2004, and then a café owner with an open heart in "The Band's Visit", a sleeper success at the end of 2007.
Already co-writer in 1997 of "La Cicatrice" by Haim Bouzaglo, Ronit Elkabetz presented her directorial debut in 2004, "To Take a Wife", co-directed with her brother Shlomi. This family drama was inspired by the life of their own parents and is part of a trilogy, driven by the character Viviane, a woman in search of her freedom, incarnated by Elkabetz herself. The second film was entitled "7 Days", another huis clos centred on the relations between brother and sister, which opened the Critics' Week at Cannes 2008.
After a supporting role in "The Girl on the Train" by Andre Techine in 2009, the actress pursued the dramatic vein in "Ashes and Blood" by Fanny Ardant. She sided once again with the Israeli director Keren Yedaya pour "Jaffa" centred on an impossible love relationship. The following year, she plays a dominant proud mother in "Turk's Head", which focuses on problems in the suburbs, directed by Pascal Elbe. Choosing films with a message, she starred in "Les Mains libres" by Brigitte Sy, incarnating a director who commits a criminal offence for the sake of a prisoner.