Naomi Ragen is an American-born novelist, playwright and journalist who has lived in Jerusalem since 1971. Naomi has written for the Jerusalem Post and other publications in Israel and abroad, as well as to her mailing list, about Israel and Jewish issues.


“The
Naomi's just-published tenth novel The Devil in Jerusalem has been chosen by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency as the number one Jewish book of the season.
The story - inspired by true events - begins with an ambulance screaming through Jerusalem’s quiet streets. Inside, a toddler fights for his life, his parents nowhere to be found. With profound shock, an emergency room doctor realizes that the child’s mother, a young American, is already at the hospital sitting at the bedside of yet another child with traumatic injuries, devoutly reciting Psalms and stubbornly refusing to answer any questions. “שטן
The Devil in Jerusalem is a chilling tale of the paths that so easily lead us astray, and the darkness within us all. Click the book’s cover to learn more.

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Naomi has published ten internationally best-selling novels, and is the author of a hit play (Women's Minyan) that has been performed more than 500 times in Israel's National Theatre (Habimah) as well as in the United States and Argentina.
An Orthodox woman, feminist and iconoclast, Naomi is a tireless advocate for women's rights in Israel, waging a relentless campaign against domestic abuse and bias in rabbinical courts, as well as a successful Supreme Court case against gender segregation on Israeli buses.
With her tenth novel, The Devil in Jerusalem, Naomi continues her ground-breaking exploration of women in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish world she began in 1989 with Jephte's Daughter, followed by Sotah and The Sacrifice of Tamar.
Naomi is a sought-after lecturer all over the world. If your group is interested in hosting Naomi, please click here.


November 2015 - The Jewish Telegraphic Agency puts The Devil in Jerusalem at the top of its list of the best Jewish books of the season.
November 2015 - Naomi lectured in Newton (MA), Boca Raton (FL), Miami (FL), St. Louis (MO), New York City, Atlanta (GA), Cherry Hill (NJ) and Santa Fe (NM).
“שטןAugust 2015 - Naomi’s new book, שטן בירושלים, a translation of The Devil in Jerusalem, is published.
Le Dixieme Chant8-19 March 2015 - Naomi toured France and Switzerland, speaking to her readers in Paris, Marseilles, Strasbourg and Geneva about her new French book, Le Dixieme Chant, a translation of The Tenth Song.
12-20 November 2014 - Naomi lectured at the Windsor Writer’s Conference in Windsor, ON as well as in Detroit, Toronto and Winnipeg.
The Sisters Weiss7 October 2014 - Naomi's ninth novel, The Sisters Weiss, was published in paperback. It's the story of two sisters from an ultra-Orthodox family in 1950s Brooklyn who take very different paths, and then find their lives unexpectedly intersecting again forty years later. To order the book from Amazon, click the book cover above.

8-17 August 2014 - Naomi was the scholar-in-residence on Kosherica's Kosher Baltic Cruise aboard the Norwegian Cruise Lines Star. The 9 night cruise visited Copenhagen, Rostock, Tallinn, Helsinki, St. Petersburg and Stockholm.

Salone Internazionale del Libro 8-9 May 2014 - Naomi took part in a panel discussion on women in Israel, together with Fiamma Nirenstein and Elena Loewenthal, at the Salone Internazionale del Libro 2014 in Turin, Italy.

December 2013 - Watch an interview (in French) with Naomi about her struggle against the haredi war on women in Israel.
Watch an interview (in French) with Naomi about Le Serment.


December 2013 - Naomi visited Île-de-France to promote her new book Le serment (the French translation of The Covenant).


Sotah 15 March 2012 - Sotah was published in Italian as L'amora proibito. Read a review (in Italian).

Jephte's Daughter March 2012 - Jephte's Daughter was published in an Italian paperback edition, as Una moglie a Gerusalemme.

Le Fantôme de Dona Gracia Mendes October 2011 - The Ghost of Hannah Mendes was published in French as Le Fantôme de Dona Gracia Mendes. Read a review (in French).

The Tenth Song October 2011 - The Tenth Song was published in paperback.

May 2011 - Four-time Tony nominee Tovah Feldshuh directed a staged reading of Women's Minyan at New York's Westside Theater. The reading was produced by One Circle Productions, in partnership with Safe Horizon.

Watch the reading. Watch an interview with Naomi and Tovah Feldshuh.

Le serment November 2013 - The Covenant was published in French as Le serment.

November 2013 - Watch an interview with Naomi by Sharon Mor of Shaulina Productions about Naomi's new book The Sisters Weiss in Hebrew or in English.

6 November 2013 - Israel's Supreme Court reversed the District Court's decision against Naomi in the Shapiro case and ordered Shapiro to return the money she was awarded. Naomi agreed that the money be donated to charity.
October-November 2013 - Naomi toured the US, visiting twelve US cities and speaking about her new book, The Sisters Weiss.
The Sisters Weiss October 2013 - Naomi's ninth novel, The Sisters Weiss, was published. Read an article about it in the San Diego Jewish World.
Chains Around the Grass August 2013 - Chains Around the Grass was published in an Amazon Kindle edition.
July 2013 - An interview with Naomi about her trips to Spain to research her best-selling The Ghost of Hannah Mendes was featured in Jewish Travel.
December 2012 - Naomi's play Women's Minyan was performed by the West Boca Theatre Company at the Levis JCC in Boca Raton, Florida.
November 2012 - Naomi visited Île-de-France speaking about her books.
5 November 2012 - Naomi spoke at the Cockfosters and North Southgate Synagogue in London, England.

Categories

Miryam and Marie

They were all the same those cowardly young jihadi butchers; all soul-less, Nazi wannabees inspired by hatred and death; morons with brains and hearts the size of pebbles.

I was in New York City for a wedding when I turned on the television news and saw pictures of the Otzar Hatorah school in Toulouse.

I could not believe my eyes.

A little over twelve years ago our daughter Rachel had done her second year of National Service there, trying her best to infuse the children and the community with her own love of Israel and their Jewish heritage. Rav Monsenego, who had interviewed her for the position in Jerusalem, was the head of the struggling Jewish school and Jonathan Sandler had been one of the older students there.

It was a small Jewish community back then, a bit raw and isolated. All the men in synagogue were either over forty or under ten. And it was impossible to ignore the growing Muslim presence in the city. Only a year or two later, the town would suffer a massive explosion in a chemical factory. While the police called it accidental, Toulouse was abuzz with the rumor that a Muslim factory employee had been found dead wearing multiple sets of underwear, a hint that he had been preparing to meet his multiple virgins.

I’ll never forget the hospitality of Rav Monsenego and his wife Yaffa on the Shabbat we came to Toulouse to visit our daughter.

Oddly, what sticks in my mind is how modest their little house was, and how I stood next to Rabbanit Yaffa as she carefully washed dishes in cold water with a metal scrubber permissible for use on the Sabbath. There was something very young and girlish and sweet about her, a gentle light in her eyes as she flashed her beautiful, gracious smile. It was so comfortable and easy to speak to her and her family over the wonderful Sephardi dishes she’d prepared.

They had four children then, some of whom had already been sent away to school because Toulouse had so few Jewish educational institutions. As I recall, her two youngest children, son Benny and daughter Yael, were still there, beautiful, smart, lively kids who spoke to us in Hebrew. Yaffa, Israeli-born to a distinguished Sephardic Rabbincal family and a teacher in the school, was full of energy and goodwill. She and the Rav could not have been kinder. My husband Alex and I thanked them both for letting our daughter become one of the family during her year abroad, little realizing how much more important they were to become to her in the years ahead.

For as her year of National Service drew to a close, Rachel, who the entire year had been telling us how much she was looking forward to coming home, suddenly began hinting she’d like to prolong her stay. The mystery was solved when a handsome young Orthodox Parisian came to visit her in Jerusalem that summer. He had been studying engineering and computer science in Toulouse for the year and also learning Talmud with Rav Monsenego during every spare moment.

Their marriage brought his French-Jewish family to Jerusalem. I remember all my Israeli guests talking about the fabulous hats the French women wore.

Soon after we visited Yaffa Monsenego in Jerusalem in the tiny Geulah apartment that belonged to her parents. As always, her lovely smile lit up the room although things had not been going easily for her. She was still struggling to have another child.

When my son-in-law Ygael completed his studies, he and Rachel and their new baby relocated from Toulouse to Paris to be near his family. But my daughter always kept in touch with the Monsenegos. I was happy to learn that after a decade of disappointed hopes and unanswered prayers, God had finally granted them another child, a girl they named Miryam. Everyone who knew them said their joy was palpable.

And now eight year-old Miryam, the pretty, shy, beloved child that had brought so much happiness to the fine people who had single-handedly brought Torah and Jewish community to Toulouse, had been murdered. The Monsenegos had lost their baby.

I thought nothing could be more horrifying than that single fact, until I heard the details.

While life in Israel should have inured me by now to Islamic-inspired atrocities against children, somehow the image of little Miryam’s soft, tender blonde hair yanked by a stranger, the cold revolver held against her childish temple was unbearable, harking back to the darkest nightmare of our people. To the million children brutally slaughtered for being Jewish by Hitler, we now had to add three more: Miryam, and little Gabriel and Aryeh Sandler.

“It’s the same Europe,” my daughter said, far away in Paris. “I feel like running to take my children out of school and locking them in the house.”

French police cars, which had been removed from the entrances of Jewish schools in France, were now back, she told me. “But something’s shifted,” she admitted. “The Jewish community is uneasy. Things aren’t the same.”

The next day, when the news programs shifted to the manhunt for the lone killer, I turned the set off. Who, honestly, cared about him? They were all the same those cowardly young jihadi butchers; all soul-less, Nazi wannabees inspired by hatred and death; morons with brains and hearts the size of pebbles. Instead, I decided to use my ticket to visit the newly opened memorial for the victims of September 11th .

It is an awesome sight to see those two new towers rising; to hear the voices of hundreds of men and machines as they strive to return that vital part ripped so brutally from the heart of this great city.

You hear the memorial long before you actually see it. It sounds like massive waterfalls in some far-off forest. The closer you get, the less you can believe your eyes. Two identical, enormous square pits fill the areas where once the old twin towers actually stood. On all four sides waterfalls cascade down, the water meeting in a square black hole which sucks everything down into its bottomless darkness.

I felt my knees shake and tears come to my eyes as I stood there. There, chiseled into the long, low marble enclosure were the names of every victim that had perished in that particular building. Right in front of me was the name Marie Lukas.

Marie Lukas was 32 years old, a beautiful, vivacious girl, beloved daughter and sister, who loved to dance and had so many friends when terrorists planes struck her building. She was sitting at her desk on the 103rd floor at Cantor Fitzgerald. As the room filled with smoke, she dialed her father, a retired firefighter, and asked him what to do. He told her to stay calm.

Miryam and Marie, I thought. So far apart in time and space, and yet that dark, black hole had swallowed them both, leaving only darkness and endless pain behind.

I have always believed that evil is simply an absence of good, the way darkness is an absence of light. But now I can see that isn’t true. Evil is a real and separate thing: a tangible force in the world, like hurricanes or volcanoes.

Ten years have passed since my ears rang with the explosion of the terrorist bomb that tore apart the Park Hotel on Seder night. Every time I get lulled into thinking the world is getting wiser or kinder, some other horror pops up to remind me that we should never fool ourselves into letting our guard down. On the contrary, every good person in the world has no choice but to battle evil in any way they can every minute, every hour, every day. The battle is never going to stop. No peace treaty, no land giveaway, no distinguished gathering of slick-tongued politicians can, will or should make it stop. Our journey from Egypt to freedom and peace continues.

Happy Passover.

This article was first published in the Jerusalem Post on 6 April, 2012.

9 comments to Miryam and Marie

  • Dear Naomi: Once again I have been very moved by your words. I admire every word you write…
    I send you a big hug, Alexandra

  • ann

    Still haunted by the cruel and brutal murder of that poor little girl,and others like her, who can forget the Hatual family the pregnant mother and her little daughters who were brutally executed in a similiar manner like Miriam,or the Fogels the parents and their little boys and babygirl who were all brutally stabbed to death. It seems Arabs love to hate or murder Jews. I am just sorry Israel didn’t deport most of them after they won the 6 day war in 1967. It sure could have saved a lot of heartache, but more important alot of lives.

  • Richard Couzens

    I am new to your site. The ebb and flow of your words moved me deeply. Feeling what you felt was effortless, inspiring rage and helplessness simultaneously. And here we are, the same place we’ve always been; clinging to the possibility the world will someday love the jew. Not to happen. Perhaps Israel and jews everywhere could stop caring about what our critics think and individually, collectively and nationally behave in accordance with our religious moral and ethical principles. Heal the world without kissing its …..

  • Rinah

    Thank you Naomi for this beautiful tribute. I feel as though I was there with you. This family will be in a very high place for sure.
    I am concerned about America though (re Ground Zero).Three leaders of the US quoted from The prophet Isaiah (ch 9). It looks impressive and sounds good what had been rebuilt there, but the prophet Isaiah was warning a rebellious nation. Two of the three leaders had to leave office; we need to watch Obama; he’s the third.
    The quote: “Bricks have fallen, we will rebuild with hewn stone; sycamores have been cut down, we will replace them with cedars” v7,8

  • Naomi R

    A beautiful tribute. Thank you. It is past time for us to make aliyah.

  • Jane

    Thank you for the tribute and the story behind the family. How very sad you must feel. I was devastated by what happened, and I have no connections with any of the people concerned – other than I’m also a human being. I hope that many French Jews will now move to Israel.

  • selma ost

    This deserves to be widely circulated – send to your local paper as I did to Phoenix Jewish News.

  • Val B.

    “Morons with hearts and brains the size of pebbles” indeed. How can people behave like this? I was visiting Israel when this occurred, so have been catching up and shedding tears rather belatedly.

  • Sharon Mayer

    I am a loyal follower and reader – never a writer, but this time you moved me to respond. I feel your pain and the pain of all the others who have died simply because they were Jews. I am an olah hadasha because I cannot not live somewhere relatively safe when my brothers and sisters are paying the price for my survival. Would that the world would listen. Chag Sameach.

    Sharon