Havazelet was born in Jerusalem, Israel. His father, Meir Havazelet, a rabbi and professor at Yeshiva University emigrated to the United States in 1957. He graduated from Columbia University in 1977, and received an M.F.A at the University of Iowa Writers Workshop in 1984. He became a Jones Lecturer at Stanford University, from 1985 to 1989, and a Wallace Stegner Fellow. He taught creative writing at Oregon State University from 1989 to 1999. Since 1999, he has taught creative writing at the University of Oregon .