Orna Porat was born to a Protestant family in Cologne, Germany, in 1924. She graduated from drama school in 1942. Upon becoming aware of the fate of the Jewish people in the Holocaust she decided to leave Germany. She and her husband Joseph, a German-Jew from Cologne, immigrated to Palestine in 1947, and several years later she converted to Judaism.
In 1948 she joined the Cameri Theatre Company, and for many years she played countless roles in a range of plays from international and local repertoires in the Cameri and in most other theatres in Israel – Habima, Beit-Lessin, The Beer-Sheba Theatre, Yiddish-Spill as well as in cinema and in television. In1964, after three years in France, she returned to the Cameri Theatre as an actress and as a member of the management.
In 1965 she founded, within theCameri Theatre, the Children's Theatre, and in 1970 – The National Theatre for Children and Youth, sponsored by the Ministry of Education and Culture. She ran this theatre for many years and today it bears her name. During her years at the theatre she has also directed shows such as Anne Frank, The Legend of God's Mysterious Ways, The Miracle-worker and many more. Alongside her work on the stage, in Israel and abroad, she served as senior lecturer at the Department of Theatre Arts at the Tel-Aviv University. She was also actively involved in the foundation of Assitej – International Association of Theatre for Children and Young People, in which she served as an executive member.
Her work on the stage has won her many prizes, among them the Brenner Prize, the Kleusner Prize, the Kinor David Prize (1970, 1974, 1980), the Israel Prize, the Meir Margalit Prize, the Raphael Klachkin Prize, A Life Achievement Award by the Israel Union of Performing Artists, and Honorary Doctorates from the Weizmann Institute, Bar-Ilan University, Tel-Aviv University; Exemplary Woman Award from the University of Haifa and others.
Recently she has been involved in three productions: Light and Shadow – a one-woman show featuring the works of Leah Goldberg (in Hacameri Theatre), Stolen Water (The Beer-Sheba Municipal Theatre) and in the role of the Hassidic Rabbi, the Zaddik, in a production of Der Dibbuk in a Polish theatre.