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

A Tale of Two Cities

It wasn’t a pretty sight: tires burning, hysterical men and women charging at the gates to the Knesset. This time it wasn’t the handicapped, or the unemployed. This time it was the municipal employees of Beit Shean, a development town in the Jordan Valley. They were protesting the fact that the till had finally run dry, leaving sanitation, clerical and other municipal employees without paychecks.

The collapse of Beit Shean is simply the first domino to fall. Financial difficulties and the inability to respond to citizens’ needs is a problem facing many, if not most, of Israel’s local governments. Many, of course, have legitimate unmet needs. But the truth is that huge salaries, nepotism, trips abroad, dinners and weekends in hotels, have long been a standard component of local government. Again and again, the Ministry of Interior has been asked to dig deep into public pockets (i.e. mine!) to bail out the at best incompetent and – at worst – corrupt local officials who obviously don’t understand that thousands minus more thousands equals less then zero.

Here in my home town in northern Jerusalem (which shall remain nameless) , we pay the highest municipal taxes in the country. And yet, the streets are often dirty, public gardens unkempt, police presence ridiculously minimal, public roads raggedy, public sports facilities overpriced and ill-cared for…

In contrast, another township only a five minute drive from me has its roads lined with blooming, colorful flowers. There is a well-run, inexpensive public pool, clean streets, a well-planned shopping center, all of which my home town lacks. What makes the difference? The answer is very simple: the quality of the people on the local council. I have no idea how the people in charge of my neighborhood got their jobs. There were never any elections. And certainly no performance reviews.

Just how big a difference the human factor can make, can be seen with startling clarity in the renaissance of a sleepy little town tucked into the hillside outside of Haifa.

Zichron Yaakov was founded in 1882 by members of the Hovevei Zion movement from Romania with the help of the Baron Edmond de Rothschild, who bankrolled them to plant grape vines. It never did become a great farming area. Aside from the winery, there aren’t many local industries or natural resources. But it does have stunning views of the hillsides and the blue Mediterranean.

At a certain point in the last decade, developers began to push to make Zichron a high rise suburb of Haifa. But a member of the local council, Alvit Fruend, had a different idea. Instead of imitating the ugliness of  urban sprawl a few kilometers away, why not preserve, refurbish, and polish Zichron’s colorful history? Why not turn the little town overlooking the sea into something so beautiful and charming people would drive miles and miles simply to wander its streets and sit in its coffee houses?

Anyone who has witnessed the growth and transformation of Zichron over the past five years really feels like rubbing their eyes to make sure it isn’t a mirage. The town center, once full of neglected, turn–of-the-century farmers’ houses, has undergone historic preservation. Framed pictures of the original settlers give visitors a taste of the town’s history. Street signs, porches, landscaping done with incredible sensitivity and taste, transport the visitor back in time.

The local residents are delighted. When we passed by the charmingly restored synagogue, built during the Ottoman Empire, we were invited inside by a friendly local resident, an older man wearing a skullcap. He explained how the synagogue was built against Ottoman Empire restrictions. The residents told the Turks it was a barn. When it got larger and larger, they said it was going to serve as a storage center for agricultural produce for the whole area. When they added the women’s section and the stained glass windows, the Turks apparently gave up. “I came here after the Holocaust from Romania,” our guide tells us. “I married, began a new family. This place has been full of blessings for me, and so I try to give a little back by volunteering here. Isn’t Zichron beautiful? It’s our local council. It was their idea,” he says with pride.

A few miles away as the crow flies is another historic hill city with incredibly beautiful views: Safed. Home to Jewish mystics and famous 16th century rabbis who escaped from the Inquisition, Safed was for many years an artists’ colony, filled with craftsmen and painters who drew inspiration from its exquisite location and inspiring history. The story of Safed is a mirror image of Zichron Yaakov’s. The artists are gone, their lovely hillside homes transformed into cheap shops selling kitschy tourist items. The center of town is neglected and depressing. Yeshivot and other nonprofit institutions have taken up where the artists left off.

The results are not pretty.

I tried calling the local Municipality to find out how all of this happened to one of my favorite spots in Israel. It was one-thirty on a weekday afternoon. The phone rang and rang, but no one at the Municipality picked up.

I suppose I got my answer.

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