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's 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.

Subscribe to Naomi's Blog

Enter your email address to subscribe to Naomi's blog.

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.

October 2016 - The Devil in Jerusalem is published in paperback.
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.


An Israeli in Paris

A trip to France reveals how its citizens are learning to live in the shadow of terrorism.

“So, you’re probably not coming…” my daughter said with a mixture of fear and resignation.

We were on the phone, I in Jerusalem, she in Paris, the day after the massive terrorist attacks in the heart of the City of Light. My French grandson’s greatly anticipated bar mitzvah was only three weeks away. For the first time in years, the entire family in Jerusalem—my other three children and six of seven grandchildren—had tickets to join their sister, aunt and cousins in France.

“Of course we’re still coming,” I answered emphatically. I was, in fact, terrified.

Having lived through a terrorist attack at the Park Hotel in Netanya on seder night in 2002 with my husband and children, I wasn’t naive enough to think, as I had back then: What are the chances they’ll davka pick our hotel? Whatever the odds, when it happens to you, it’s 100 percent.

But how ludicrous would it be for me, living in Jerusalem, a city with almost daily incidents involving knife- and car-wielding jihadi murderers, to tell my daughter it’s not safe enough in Paris for us to come? My kids were apparently of the same mind. This was true even after news sources reported that Arabic graffiti had been found close to the engines on easyJet planes in Paris airports.

We were all traveling with easyJet.

My children, I reminded myself, are Israelis. In Israel, you learn not to change your plans because of terrorism. You take whatever precautions you can and then accept that whatever is going to happen is going to happen.

The flight was uneventful, even boring. My French son-in-law met us and managed to fit nine people and all our luggage into his van. “That’s the Stade de France,” he pointed out on the way, calling our attention to the stadium targeted by terrorists. It was enormous. I tried not to imagine what could have happened had security guards not stopped the suicide bombers from getting inside. It could have easily been another 9/11.

My son-in-law, French by birth, was pretty happy with the steps taken by President François Hollande since the attacks. He felt confident the worst was behind them.

I didn’t share his optimism. “Will there be guards at the bar mitzvah?” I asked.

By government decree, he explained, all Jewish institutions in France were now guarded by the army during opening hours.

On Shabbat, I saw the reality: The entrance to the synagogue was completely barred by plastic crowd-control barriers guarded by four uniformed, machine-gun-toting soldiers who inspected everyone attempting to enter the code-locked side door. Inside, three additional soldiers sat at a long table with their weapons and communications equipment. They too checked us over as we walked in.

It was jarring. Despite Jerusalem’s terrorism problem, I almost never see armed soldiers, certainly not at the entrance to my synagogue. But my French family was grateful. “If only the Jewish school in Toulouse had been guarded,” my daughter pointed out. She had been a teacher there doing her National Service and had known the rabbi and his family well. When the rabbi’s daughter Miriam was murdered at the school’s entrance by a jihadi Muslim anti-Semite in 2012, along with one of my daughter’s former students and his children, there was no guard on duty to protect them.

The bar mitzvah took place near my daughter’s home in a quiet suburb of Paris, a place that is the face of France’s vaunted multiculturalism. Its small Jewish community lives side by side with traditionally dressed Muslims, Africans and other immigrants. There is a halal butcher shop and a mosque, a Portuguese restaurant and a small kosher sandwich shop. The Jewish community is far outnumbered by Muslims. Yet the town’s mayor has gone out of her way to make Jewish residents feel cherished and comfortable. The town provides not only security but also a building for a yeshiva, which my son-in-law runs.

After the bar mitzvah service, my grandsons wore their kippot openly in the streets, and no one gave them a second glance. Still, I wondered if we would be in any danger when a whole crowd of kippa-wearing Jews exited the synagogue to eat a festive lunch in the nearby yeshiva. My fears were put to rest as I learned that—despite his proclaimed ease—my son-in-law had arranged for the soldiers to follow us and guard the yeshiva while we ate.

As my grandson—tall and handsome—stood at the bimah of the beautiful Sephardic synagogue reading his Torah portion with ease, surrounded by French Jews whose ancestors had fled oppression in Arab lands such as Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco, I couldn’t help wondering what kind of future awaited him and this wonderful community if their lives as traditional Jews were possible only under heavily armed guard.

The rest of my time in France broadened that question. It was not only Jews who were under siege. I was astonished to find how many of the precautions we take for granted in Israel—like opening your handbag for examination before entering a supermarket or shopping mall —are now part of life in the French capital. Although the French have been among Israel’s harshest critics, I felt surprisingly sad for them and for myself. There is no place left where you can take a vacation from constant vigilance and ever-present worry about terrorism.

As I looked around at French people doing their holiday shopping in their stylish stores beneath their gorgeous Christmas decorations, I imagined I saw the same determination I see in Israelis to keep living a normal life, not to give in, not to give up. But beneath the sparkle, their faces showed the strain of this new reality, and I felt their confusion and pain, the shattering of the comforting illusion that they would not be targeted because they didn’t deserve it. It was a sad but necessary awakening, as I myself learned only too well.


This article was originally published in the January-February 2016 issue of Moment Magazine.

3 comments to An Israeli in Paris

  • Naomi Romm

    Mazal Tov on the young man’s bar mitzvah. It is our strength in the face of adversity that keeps us strong. That and the fact that we have an incredible partner. B’tachon and emunah says it all.

  • Harvey Tauber

    How sad. When we were in Paris less than 18 months ago we walked through Le Marais without the slightest fear, perhaps foolishly, even stopping at the Jewish museum and then continuing to our hotel on the left bank. After so many wonderful trips to this magnificent city over the last 50 years it’s hard to imagine not returning out of fear and anxiety.

  • Cheryl Jacobs Lewin

    MAZEL TOV ON YOUR GRANDSON’S BAR MITZVAH! I have a question – given the increasing amount of French Jews leaving France to make Aliyah what is the situation in the community where your daughter and son-in-law live?