Ephraim Sevela was born in Bobruisk, Soviet Union on March 8, 1928, the son of Joel E. Sevela, a sportsman, and Rachel Gelfand Sevela. His education in the Soviet Union included attendance at the University of Minsk from 1945-1948. On September 19, 1959 he married Julia Gendelstein, an actress, with whom he has two children.
Sevela's career has reflected various interests and talents. He worked as a journalist in Vilna, Soviet Union and as a script writer and file director in Moscow. Particularly notable are the scripts he wrote in the Russian language for eight feature films in the Soviet Union. He was a member of the Union of Soviet Film Makers.
In 1971, Sevela and twenty-three other Soviet Jews staged a sit-in strike at the Supreme Soviet (the legislative body of the U.S.S.R.) to protest the country's restrictive emigration policies. The group is credited with staging the first political strike that led to the beginning of Jewish immigration to Israel. Instead of inflicting the expected punishment on the strikers, the government, surprisingly, allowed them and many other Jews to emigrate. Following worldwide protests over the denial of his own exit visa, Sevela was eventually allowed to leave the Soviet Union and take up residency in Israel. Sevela has also resided in the United States. His books for young adults are We Were Not Like Other People, translated from the Russian by Antonina W. Bouis, 1989; Pochemu net raia na zemie, translation by Richard Lourie, Stav, Jerusalem, 1982, published in America as Why There Is No Heaven On Earth, 1982.