Zvi Yanai was born in Italy in 1935 and immigrated to Israel after World War II in 1945. He arrived at Kibbutz Ramat David, where his first name was changed from Sandro to Zvi.
In 1952, at the age of 17, he joined the IDF Paratroopers Brigade. He was a parachuting instructor and participated in different retaliation acts. In 1955 he signed up for a year of standing army and traveled to the world championship in Moscow as a member of the Israeli skydiving delegation. In 1956 he participated in the Sinai war and was later released from military service.
In 1970, he joined IMB Israel and founded the company's PR and international relations department. Yanai served as head of the department and IMB's spokesperson for 20 years.
He edited the Mahshavot ("thoughts") magazine published by IBM and designed its interdisciplinary line in the fields of science, culture, art and philosophy. Mahshavot went on to become the most demanded magazine in the Israeli society.
In 1984, he hosted a television show on cinema. He also edited and hosted a program on philosophy and science, and presented radio shows on scientific discoveries. He delivered lectures in the fields of science, computer sciences and arts in academic forums, in different institutions, in military command forums, in the Shin Bet general security service and to the wide audience.
At the same time, he wrote and published dozens of book reviews and articles in newspapers and magazines in the fields of science, arts, social sciences and Israeli culture.
In 1991, he served as a PR advisor and an active member on the public council of the Israel Arts and Science Academy in Jerusalem. He was also active in the field of strategic counseling on organizational philosophy of high-tech companies. In 1992, then-Health Minister Ehud Olmert sought his advice on the reform in health services.
A year later, he was appointed director-general of the Science Ministry by then-Minister of Communications, Arts and Science Shulamit Aloni. He served in the position for four years, working alongside Ministers Aloni and Benny Begin.
During his term, he reorganized the Science Ministry and pinpointed Israel's comparative advantages in the fields of science and technology. Yanai formulated, initiated and set up infrastructure research development as a link between basic and applied research.
His book "Shelcha, Sandro" ("Yours, Sandro") won the Sapir Prize for Literature in 2008 and was voted Book of the Year by Ynet readers in 2007. Yanai wrote columns for Ynet for many years.