Ilana Shmueli was born Liane Schindler to a German-Romanian Jewish family in Czernowitz, Romania. She and her parents escaped both Soviet and German invasions in World War II and fled to Palestine. There she studied music and became a social worker.
In 1953, she married Herzl Shmueli, a musicologist. She was a childhood friend of poet Paul Celan, and became reacquainted with him in 1965, at age 41, on a visit to Paris. They embarked on a love affair and a lively correspondence, which has been published. She translated works from Hebrew and German, and after Celan's death in 1970 began to publish poetry in literary magazines and anthologies. In 1999, she published Sag, das Jerusalem ist (Say That Jerusalem Is: About Paul Celan) in Hebrew with translations of 27 poems of Celan. Other works included the autobiographical A Child from a Good Family: Czernowitz 1924-1944 (2006), and the poetry collections Between Now and Now (2007) and Drafting a Life (2011). In 2009, she received the Theodor Kramer Prize, given to authors writing in a context of resistance or exile. Toward Babel: Poems and a Memoir (2013), was published posthumously.