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.

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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.

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.


Living Under the “Terrorism Tree”

You’d think we’d be used to it by now, wouldn’t you? The unprovoked stabbings, cars running over people waiting for the train, shootings of would-be jihadis in the supermarket and the center of town. Especially for us in Jerusalem, who always live on the cusp of disaster, of the sudden outbreak of barely contained fanaticism. But as one Jerusalemite who has lived this way since leaving New York behind one cold winter’s day in 1971, I bear witness to the impossibility of ever believing this is a permanent situation. For Israelis, it will never be “the new normal.”

Every outbreak of terrorism is a new one, as if it has never happened before. Our senses, alert, become even more so. The casual native speech of Arab supermarket employees—many of whom have been inside our homes numerous times putting groceries on the kitchen table—nevertheless suddenly, and without warning, becomes menacing and incredibly loud. The big backpack of a soldier left in the carriage area on city buses—because it won’t fit anywhere else—evokes a chorus of “Whose bag is that?” from passengers, whose tones grow ever more frantic and hysterical with each passing second. And even though it takes less than five seconds for the sleepy private sitting up front to figure out it’s his bag that’s causing the ruckus, those seconds pass like little eternities.

Each new wave of violence and hatred also evokes memories of past atrocities, so that even when the woman in the hijab with the knife is captured by the soldier before she can do any harm, the act sends shivers down our spines as it is added to the collection we keep in a large box close to our hearts, a box that we try to open and close quickly, before the demons can escape.

Sometimes, this is possible. Sometimes, like on a recent Saturday night, as we get up from a delicious meal in a new French coffeehouse right off the Ben Yehuda pedestrian walkway, we are surrounded by surging crowds of revelers, most of them young and carefree, then surprisingly serenaded by a choir of Asian Israel-lovers, visitors from some far-off place, who sing with joy and without fear, their enthusiastic voices filled with goodwill. And we take the bus home, satisfied that the streets of Jerusalem are filled. Even so, we can’t help comparing it to Saturday nights not so long ago, when no one—ourselves included—would walk down Ben Yehuda Street at all because of all the human bombs waiting to go off. We can’t help using that as the barometer for the current state of the nation. And even when there are good signs, still we wonder: How many more incidents will it take? How many more random hit-and-runs or stabbings to empty the streets and lock us back into our fears? How many more will it take for terrorism to win?

I sometimes think our past hangs over us like a big tree, casting shade over even the brightest of days. I remember, years ago, having survived a terrorist attack, I told myself that to live with terrorism is to lie in bed and dread what lies beyond this hour, this minute, this second—but also to breathe more deeply and notice the sky, hear the click of coffee spoons, smell the fragrant, brewed cup. It is to taste each mouthful and take no second chance for granted.

To live with terrorism is to suspect each stranger, to cherish each friend, to love more deeply, hate more unforgivingly. It is to have no tolerance for the morally confused who waver, who say, “Yes, but on the other hand”—to have no tolerance for those who still claim nothing is black and white.

To live with terrorism is to see the dividing line, the demarcation between good and evil, like a white road marker: Never was anything more clear, more simple, more stark, than that which divides those who kill from those who are killed—the scum of the earth from innocent noncombatants.

To live with terrorism is to live more profoundly, in greater touch with truth, good, God, life, innocence, longing, fear, love, compassion, vengeance and hope. Such a life loses inevitability but gains depth. It loses the sense of freedom, safety, justice, logic and predictability, replacing them with clarity, despair, physical alertness and adaptability.

To live with terrorism is to live life always with a sense of imminent endings but never to lose hope that one day things will go back to being the same again day after day.

The longer we live in the shade of the terrorism tree, the more we begin to forget what normal life was like. Sometimes that just means that we live with greater intensity than most people, which is not the worst thing in the world. The worst thing would be to live without memory or without hope. For now, we live with both.


This article was originally published in the January-February 2015 issue of Moment.

5 comments to Living Under the “Terrorism Tree”

  • Conrado Lumahan

    Mother Noami, your pen is as powerful as missile. If missile destroys, your pen restores.

  • Don Saliman

    I live on Kibbutz Nahal Oz, and although except in war, we can walk outside our Kibbutz even in the night time without fear.

    But and this is a big but, we live under the condition every day that one day underneath our homes a terrorist might just come through our floor from a tunnel and attack us.

    We also wait for the “Color Red” warning for a rocket, we spent most of this summer for two months listening to explosions, rockets land in our or near our homes, with a 8 year old boy Daniel being killed by a rocket, many homes damaged and people hurt and a two years before that, went another 2 months under the same condition.

    That is the normal of our lives today.

  • Naomi R.

    No matter what we must all find the way to the land of our hearts and souls. B’ezrat Hashem I hope to be there very soon. Thank you Naomi.

  • Naomi – you always hit the nail squarely on its head.

    Hopefully these next 2 years will pass with minimal damage such that we can rid ourselves of both an Anti-American and Anti-Israel President and have the faith and integrity of the US restored among our allies such that the US can spearhead the battle to eliminate all those “extremist Muslims” who need to be eliminated!

  • vicki tate

    As always, my heart vibrates to the beat of yours.