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.

Naomi will be speaking about her just-published tenth novel The Devil in Jerusalem (which has been chosen by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency as the number one Jewish book of the season) on her November US lecture tour.
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, she stubbornly refuses to answer any questions, cautioning her children to say nothing. “שטן
Brought in to investigate, Jerusalem detective Binah Tzedek, herself a young mother, carefully peels back layer after layer of secrets and lies, following a dark, winding path through Jerusalem’s Old City, kabbalists, mystical ancient texts and terrifying cult rituals until she comes face-to-face with the horrifying truth that has held a young American family captive.
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.

Subscribe to Naomi's blog

Enter your email address to subscribe to Naomi's blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

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.
“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.

A True Jewish Hero – Part One

“Like the biblical Abraham, Abraham Timor was a man of faith, courage and strength who rose to every challenge.”

“By January 1948, the settlement of Neve Yaakov was under siege. The thirty families were under attack by the Arabs of Shuafat, who blocked the road to Jerusalem and cut the water lines. Supplies could only be obtained by giving large bribes to the British police. That is how we got matzah for Pesach.”

So wrote Abraham (Wexler) Timor, Hagana commander of Neveh Ya’acov, many years later in a newsletter to his eight children and 120 grandchildren and great grandchildren.

I found it on the coffee table in his modest house in Moshav Nehalim, a place he’d helped to found, during a shiva call. A few days earlier, Abraham had passed away peacefully in his bed at the age of 96.

I was one among hundreds who gathered to mourn and pay tribute to a quiet giant of a man, a true Jewish hero, microcosm of all that was best in that generation to which we all owe so much, a generation that demanded, expected and needed nothing less than superhuman heroism to achieve the miraculous goal of creating anew an ancient homeland to shelter and revive a ravaged and decimated nation.

Like the biblical Abraham, Abraham Timor was a man of faith, courage and strength who rose to every challenge.

Trained as a book publisher, he became a Hagana commander in his early 30s and went on to found the religious Moshav Nehalim. An autodidact with a massive library that included books of the Talmud alongside the novels of Oscar Wilde and books on history, philosophy and art, he was a talented calligrapher. Next to his books there is a shelf of awards bearing witness to decades of selfless volunteer work.

But perhaps his greatest enterprise was his family. On the wall is a photo collage of eight grandchildren in IDF uniforms, all serving at the same time.

Born in Latvia in 1915, he and his devout Jewish family made their way to Hamburg to seek greater educational opportunities.

After graduating Talmud Torah Reali, Abraham entered a program to become a book publisher and editor, all the while cooking and cleaning and working to help his sick mother. He completed his degree in 1934, the year his mother succumbed to her illness.

In that same year, the Nazis made it impossible for a Jew in Hamburg to graduate.

So Abraham went to Bremen to take his exams, earning his certification. But he was finished with Germany. The next day he boarded a train to Florence to join a religious, Zionist training program run by Brit Halutzim Dati’im (Bachad), a forerunner of B’nei Akiva.

In between courses in agricultural technology, the repair of farm instruments and Jewish history, the tall, strikingly handsome young pioneer met a lovely young baby nurse named Naomi Zilberschmidt from Hungary, who had trained in the famous children’s home run by Bertha Pappenheim.

The two fell in love. But Abraham already had his “certificate” from the British to move to Palestine, and Naomi did not. He had no choice but to board the Galila ship to Haifa in September 1935, leaving her behind.

Members of Poalei Mizrahi met him in Haifa and took him to the Rodges training camp, members of which eventually founded the religious communities of Tirat Zvi, Kfar Yavetz, Sde Eliahu, Ein Hanatziv and Kvutzat Yavne. Three months later, Naomi finally arrived. They were married by the rabbinate in Jerusalem the day after her arrival in Rodges, and immediately returned to the camp, where they received a tent, two bed frames and two bales of hay from which to make mattresses. Two years later, expecting their first child, they decided to join a pioneering settlement in northern Jerusalem called Neveh Ya’acov.

Founded in 1925 by devout families from the Old City and Mea She’arim, it was abandoned by the original settlers in the wake of murderous Arab riots and repopulated by German Jewish immigrants who created a new agricultural cooperative and residential housing, where scholars, writers and artists from Jerusalem came to settle, including the composer Karl Solomon.

Finding work in the local quarry, Abraham was soon put in charge of establishing a gravel factory. In 1937, following the birth of their first child, Yedida, the quarry closed and Abraham was forced to scramble to support his growing family. He tried his hand and succeeded at building, plumbing and electrical work, while also terracing the hillside to plant apple and plum trees (the glory of Naomi’s famous cakes), and maintaining coops for hundreds of chickens, 40 geese and four goats he had brought by train from Beit She’an.

Naomi, in no less heroic efforts to support her family, worked as the yishuv’s nurse, made goat-hair slippers, coconut-soled sandals, raffia ribbons and oil lamps, and sewed gloves and clothing to sell in Jerusalem stores. On top of that, she established a soup kitchen in her home to feed members of the Hagana who arrived secretly to practice shooting and grenade-throwing in the abandoned quarry. During all this, she managed to give birth to four more children – Uri, Yael, Gideon and Shiraleh.

IN THE meantime, the Hagana sent the young family man to numerous training courses, entrusting him with establishing secret weapons caches in places like the Hebrew University at Mount Scopus, Sdom and the Hulda forest. At the age of only 33, Abraham was appointed commander of Hagana forces in Neveh Ya’acov.

His firsthand description of events following the historic UN vote on November 29, 1947, reveals the heavy burden of that responsibility: “The Arab Legion sent foot soldiers and a fleet of armored vehicles to attack us. The situation was dire. One of our men was killed, and twelve were injured. Their canons destroyed our fortressed positions.

“The houses nearest the gate were evacuated, and the Legion entered with locals who looted everything. Just then, I saw someone raise his head outside the armored truck giving soldiers the orders to advance. I took aim and shot him. As fate would have it, he turned out to be the company’s top commander.

“His death ended the attack, and the Legion retreated. This didn’t stop Radio Ramallah from announcing Neve Yaakov had fallen ‘after the Jews attacked our forces.’”

Things only got worse. By May 1, 1948, the Hagana ordered women and children evacuated from both Neveh Ya’acov and Atarot. Pregnant Naomi and their five children left with only her sewing machine, clothes and a few mattresses, finding shelter in Katamon in a house hurriedly abandoned by a fleeing Arab family. Abraham and the other men remained behind to defend the yishuv. They were soon joined by the men of Atarot, who had been ordered to abandon their yishuv.

On May 14, the State of Israel was declared. The final battle for Neveh Ya’acov took place the following Sunday. At 7 a.m., two divisions of the Arab Legion and seven armored vehicles and artillery struck the yishuv, once again reaching its gates. Abraham told the fighters that reinforcements were on their way. It was a lie. The truth was, the Hagana had told him they had no one to send and he should surrender.

But surrender was the last thing in the world the young commander was prepared to do. Only several days earlier, Naomi’s brother, Moshe Zilberschmidt, had been killed as he heroically led the defense of the Gush Etzion bloc. Desperately outnumbered, the Hagana had raised the white flag.

In response, the Arab legion slaughtered them all.

By 8 p.m., Neveh Ya’acov was still standing, but at a terrible cost. Out of 100 fighters, four had died and 18 had been seriously wounded. There was a lull in the fighting. At 1 a.m., the decision was taken to evacuate under cover of nightfall. After burying the dead and the Torah scrolls, the exhausted fighters piled the wounded onto mattresses and carried them all the way to Mount Scopus.

Along the way, there were those who were tempted to leave the wounded behind.

“We are not leaving anyone behind,” Abraham insisted, taking out his gun and threatening to shoot anyone who refused to continue shouldering the burden. As a result, everyone arrived together safely. Among the evacuees was Supreme Court Justice Tsevi Tal, who also paid a shiva call, telling Abraham’s family that he owed his life to the intrepid commander.

But there was to be no rest for Abraham, who was next put in charge of defending Mount Scopus. During a lull in the fighting, he heard the news that his sixth child, Efrat, had been born.

She was destined to be the mother of my son’s wife, Anat.

This article was first published in the Jerusalem Post on 24 February, 2012.

Part Two of this article is here.

10 comments to A True Jewish Hero – Part One

  • A. Da Costa

    I think the story of this hero is superb and I am waiting to read part 2. Thank you for telling it. Ayee Mendes da Costa

  • Judith Forsgren

    Courage in the line of fire cannot be done better. True love comes from the heart of these. The stones of Israel were made from those that came across the Jordan RIver, those in the breast plate of the High Priest and those of heroes such as this man. May a monument of stone be placed at his grave as a landmark of the apple of G-d’s eye.

  • Doug Hart

    Thank you for this; I have ‘shared’ it on my FaceBook Page. It is helpful to remember that there are heros in every shape and size and race and religion. It is also helpful to know that many ‘heros’ are more interested in helping and preserving than in destroying or killing. He sound like a man that I would have liked to know.

  • Moshe Cohen

    G-D Bless our many heroes,

  • geri

    thank you so much, Naomi for this awe inspiring, heart-rendering story of a hero.
    This would make a successful book and movie for everyone about a human’s spirit and the difference he made in people’s lives.
    My deepest sympathy to Anat’s family.
    A Happy Purim to you and your family

  • Talya R.

    Dear Naomi,
    First of all, my heartfelt condolences to your all family on the passing of Anat’s grandfather.
    This is a captivating story of heroism and courage written powerfully to the very last word. This story should be read by all, especially in Jewish schools around the globe. I printed a copy to be read in my daughter’s Jewish high school. Someone should make the story of Abraham Timor into a movie.
    Naomi, if you turn this story into a book, it will become a best seller.
    Get to work!

  • Rabbi Fleishig

    I am reminded of something John Stuart Mill wrote: “A man who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.” Abraham Tamir was one of those “better men” whose exertions made life free and safe for us all.

  • Gary Davis

    Thanks Naomi for sharing this wonderful story. Our young need to hear many more.

  • aaron solomon

    I’m sure there are many stories of this type and should be told. Truely a very heart warming story of the hard times during the early days of the beginning of the State of Israel. Thank you for printing it and sharing it with everyone.

  • Naomi R

    What a beautiful and heartening story to read right before Shabbat. Shabbat shalom and a peaceful weekend to you and your family.