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

The New “Normal”

Back in the 1970’s, I remember watching a television report about the civil war in Lebanon. Etched in my memory was an interview with a nameless woman who described how she lived when her street was targeted by snipers picking off ordinary civilians at whim. Her words went something like this: We go out in the early morning, because at that time the snipers are still sleeping. And then in the heat of the day, because they are tired, she said matter-of-factly. Her words struck me with horror not so much for their content, because after all what was the poor woman to do; she had to go out sometime to buy food for her family. No, what chilled my bones was that this had all become the new normal for her. She had accepted the situation, and it had become a way of life with no recollection of any other way to live.

This, most of all, is the true danger of the current conflict between Israel and the brutal terrorists on her borders. As my son told me the other day about occupying my grandchildren during the summer while rocket attacks and sirens were going off non-stop all over the country: “We’ve sort of gotten used to it.”

Let me preface what I am about to say next by framing it in the following context: I think Israelis, including my son, are the bravest, most resourceful and intelligent people on earth. I think that they are a generous, inventive, creative, kind, humane, life-loving people who are the least deserving of hatred of any nation on earth.

But I can actually can think of many others on our small planet who deserve to be defamed, libeled, marched against, boycotted, hated and shunned.

People who play soccer with human heads (couldn’t believe my eyes). People who behead others and show it on YouTube. People who teach children to play at cutting off the heads of dolls and then proudly upload videos of the little darlings in the act with their sawing knives and headless dolls. People who rent out their twelve-year old daughters to jihadi rapists. People who throw acid in the faces of women who reject their advances. People who pull others off the street and execute them.

You get the picture. For the life of me, I don’t understand why they are not being targeted by the do-gooders and the outraged liberals. I don’t understand why for journalists it is only news if they are Jews.

In the middle of personally going a bit nuts after a slew of funerals of the handsomest, kindest, most wonderful young men on earth, our IDF soldiers, I went on a long-planned holiday, a Baltic cruise which started out in Copenhagen and anchored in Helsinki, Stockholm, St. Petersburg, and a few other stops I’ve already forgotten.

Walking through the streets of a peaceful European city was a bit of a shock at first. It was like getting reacquainted with sanity. All those blondes on bicycles in Denmark, the wind in their hair, adorable little babies in bicycle sidecars. People in outdoor cafés, on boat rides, strolling through green, blooming gardens on a summer day. In my mind’s eye, I tried, for just a moment, to envision a siren going off, and everyone scurrying for cover.

But it was impossible.

Ahh, so this is what it was like, once, not so long ago, that thing called normalcy.

I thought of the beginnings of World War II, when Haile Selassie raised his voice in 1935 when Italy barbarously invaded his little country. “…there is no precedent for a people being victim of such injustice and being at present threatened by abandonment to its aggressor.” To the eternal shame of the world, his stirring plea fell on deaf ears as the world went on with the business of trying to get along with Hitler in order to maintain their own quiet lives.

History bears out how well that strategy worked.

What I find most frightening and incomprehensible is how few people remember this. Is it real ignorance or willed ignorance? I have not yet decided. Young people seem so oblivious to human history. They can tell you how many times Selena Gomez has broken up with Justin Bieber, but I seriously doubt they could tell you anything about even the history of the last ten years, let alone the last hundred years of the planet earth.

And it’s not just the young. Stupid young people grow into stupid old people. Those who lived through history can also choose not to remember, if the vitriol against Israel coming out of Great Britain is any indication. Blitz? What Blitz? The Allied bombing of Dresden in retaliation? Say what?

It’s a convenient amnesia no doubt brought on by the march of the new forces of barbarism that have invaded the free world under the guise of immigration. The violent demonstrations all over Europe in support of the slaughtering hordes of rapists-kidnappers, and genocidal, racist maniacs united under their newly minted version of Islam have taken over the lovely streets of Paris, the sidewalks of London’s High Street and other European main streets too numerous to count. Their ugly, anti-Semitic slogans pollute the walls of the once civilized world. If you haven’t seen it with your own eyes, you will. Wherever you live, they are soon coming to a street near you.

Jews, for obvious reasons, don’t have the luxury of forgetting our history. Of all the peoples on earth, we are the least willing to repeat it, for obvious reasons.

I was fascinated by the history of the Jews in all the places I visited. Without exception, Jewish presence all over Europe followed the same pattern. Jews were expelled. Then certain Jews, for certain reasons, were temporarily “permitted” to settle in certain towns for a certain amount of time, in order to serve the particular needs of the current ruling classes. Then they were kicked out again. And then they trickled back again, until they were kicked out once more.

It seems to me that Europe’s current attitude towards the Jewish State is tainted with a delusional desire to recapture this historical ability to tell Jews where they can and can’t live; what they can and can’t do. Perhaps this is why through the European Union they continue to issue edicts and warnings and demands and come up with ugly blood libels, refusing to accept that history has moved on and that the Jews no longer need the permission of Europe to settle and grow and prosper and create and address their own needs, irrespective of how Europe would like to be served.

Back in the 1770’s Jews were only allowed in Sweden if they converted to Christianity until one Aron Isak, a seal engraver from Germany, rejected this demand: “I would not change my religion for all the gold in the world.” This so impressed the Lord Mayor of Stockholm, that he advised Mr. Isak to talk to King Gustav III, who granted Mr. Isak not only the right to become Sweden’s first Jewish citizen, but to bring with him ten more families so that he could have a minyan.

From a quiet life among a tolerant and liberal population, Jewish life in Sweden and most of Europe has become a nightmare as Muslim immigrants from all over the Islamic world flooded the country, rising to over four percent of the population.

Since the recent war in Gaza, life for Swedish Jews has become even more intolerable. “We have always known that there are those who hate us in Sweden, but this time it was expressed more powerfully, because there were so many anti-Semitic remarks and attacks by anti-Semites that it was impossible to follow. Even among celebrities, politicians and journalists – it was not a criticism of the operation in Gaza, but really hate against Jews,” twenty-two year-old Swedish-Jewish student Victor Borslöv-Reichmann told NRG.

The irony of Europe having historically closed its doors to Jews only to now open them wide to Muslims is hard to ignore. In Sweden, at least, this has not brought blessing. In the first seven months of 2013, over 1,000 Swedish women reported being raped by Muslim immigrants in the capital city of Stockholm, a large percentage pre-teens.

Our boat docked in Stockholm. Lots of lovely buildings. Lots of dark-haired men eyeing Swedish blondes. And many signs decrying the “slaughter” of Palestinians in Gaza.

I flew home to Israel. That first night back, there was a Red Alert in Jerusalem.

Unfortunately, it felt like the new normal.

Even so, it was better than being in Sweden, or any other foreign place where local tranquility is bought by immoral ignorance. But if George Santayana was right when he wrote: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” then it won’t be tranquil in any of those places much longer.

 This article was first published in the Jerusalem Post on 29 August 2014.

20 comments to The New “Normal”

  • Marta Cullen

    “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” That is sadly true.
    What stuns me is that people who lived through WWII, lived through the horrible crimes committed then, have forgotten or do not want to remember.
    I grew up in the Netherlands, I learned from my family and at school what happened and to remember so that this would never happen again.
    Several generations later, people look at you when you talk about this as if you are mad. 🙁
    I am not Jewish (at least I don’t think so) but I stand with Israel. When I say this there are some people who think I am mad, get angry, or simply stop talking. (Not that I mind)
    Thank you for writing about this. Don’t stop.
    Marta

  • Kim

    Today I received the most horrid email containing photographs of atrocities committed by Muslim groups in the East (“Religion of Peace”). I don’t know why it took despicable graphic photographs of human carnage to convince me that Israel should protect itself and its people (with direct help proudly from the USA)… nonetheless, it did. It really shifted everything in my mind since now I know I have a full understanding of who Israel is fighting and why it is important that we all stand together against this Evil. Consider me reformed!

  • What a beautiful and powerful article. Hits right at the point with eloquence and truth.

    I guess we 21st century Jews are as clueless as those in the 1930’s as to why a supposedly “civilized” culture of inclusion once again excludes exclusively the Jews.

    But it must be so infuriating to the world to know that we no longer take this lying down – we have Israel, we fight back. Jewish blood is NOT cheap. We need Israel – all of us – even the self-haters. They will come to understand this shortly.

    But what is the most poignant and telling is your return home from the quiet capitals of Europe and your full understanding that the only place we all can feel truly safe and “at home” is Israel.

  • kitty hoffman

    I stand with Israel. Both my parents were survivors of the Shoah. I weep for the sad truth of your comments. And also, out of tzedek, I must add — what is the ‘new normal’ for the residents of Gaza and the area west of the Jordan? My late mother — who was a lifelong follower of Betar, Begin and Jabotinsky — always wept at the plight of the refugees on Israel’s borders. “I know what it is to be stateless,” she would say through her tears. Regardless of the reasons — yes, I blame the Arab nations and the rest of the world for refusing to take in the refugees, as my own parents were finally taken in out of a DP camp in Europe — surely the creative genius of Israel and the jewish people can find a positive way forward out of this place of darkness, and bring an end to the brutalizing effects of having to conduct a military administration.

  • Hedy Gordon

    Naomi Ragen has once again showed the world what is truly going on. Hopefully more will listen. I will pass this onto my FAcebook contacts as well as my those on email. Please keep writing.

  • Irma Friedberg

    Great article! Some of us in America understand, but unfortunately the majority of American Jews will not accept this reality. My mother, a’h, always said, make sue that your passports are up to date. She was right.

  • Judy Baker

    Your article is so cogent and meaningful. I am forwarding it to all of my friends. I cannot understand why the rest of the world, even those in the United States, are so quick to condemn Israel when she is being pummeled with so many rockets. Why does not the media write about the traumatized children of Israel? It seems that for the world today, the only “good Jews” are those being led to slaughter. Thank G-D for Israel and the safe haven it provides for Jews everywhere.

  • John Dicks

    As always “spot on”. As often, I shall send this on to my mailing list

    Shavua Tov.

    John Dicks

  • Lawrence Wald

    Thank you for giving us this necessary history lesson. The history of the world is a presentation of repetitive cyclical events. For example, there have been evil, sadistic despots through the centuries, ie every generation has its own “Haman”. Hamas,al Qaeda, and ISIS are a reincarnation of the Nazis.

    Your quote from George Santayana is so appropriate for today. There is no doubt that the majority of individuals have never learned history or have forgotten what they have learned. Therefore they are doomed to repeat it. The world should have learned that the Nazis were successful mainly because of intimidation and appeasement by Europe and the US. Sadly, I am afraid the world did not learn this valuable lesson, and we may be doomed to have to relive a horrible reincarnation of the Nazi era(1933-1945). I pray I am wrong about this and that the world will wake up before it is too late!

  • Barbara Abramson

    You are so eloquent, articulate and right on track………….you stated it all so wonderfully. Thank you, thank you and thank you.
    I love your work and have read you over the years and attended so many book discussions on same and they are always so lively and well attended. You are such an asset to Israel and the world at large. Bless you and may you and your family have a safe and wonderful New Year.

  • Jonathan Glaser

    Naomi – you insight and perception are so deep and profound. It is a real treat to read your writings along with this one. AM YISRAEL CHAI!
    With many blessings.

  • Abi Gezunt

    Someday geneticists will find the gene that causes anti-Semitism. For how else can a sane person understand how such hatred persists from generation to generation?

    That our people continue to exist can only be called a miracle. Still, to lose so many of our family members and friends in so many lands over so many centuries, also tells me that we are all living in the “old” normal. A few good years here and there, but in the main, life for Jews continues to be lived on the edge.

    Perhaps the one difference in our generation, also a miracle, is that we now have one space, Israel, from which to build ourselves up and perhaps even thrive. The anti-Semitic gene persists, without a cure. Perhaps the only cure is Moshiach. Until then, this condition in which we live is, sadly, ‘normal.’

  • You and Bret Stephens are my “Heroes”
    Love You!

  • martin

    since I love Israel I love your articles

  • Thank you Naomi. I always forward your articles to hopefully wakeup my liberal jewish friends. You are truly wonderful and I am one of your biggest fans. Dianne Varon Huntington Beach Ca

  • Bernie Cohn

    Very profound. I love your articles and have read most of your books this past summer.
    I very proud of you!
    Bernie Cohn

  • Warren T. Young

    Thank you Naomi: It bends my mind when I see the apathy that prevails throughout the world. Wake UP!
    We need to hear more from those who witness the truth and the evil creeping and emerging from those who continue to terrorize the Jews and ultimately, the entire free world.

  • Every day I hear the question “Where are the millions of moderate Muslims who claim that they do not support the extremists? Why are they silent?” Is it indifference or fear or unspoken agreement with their violent, anti-semitic, anti-western, murderous brethren? Thank you Naomi for another excellent article. Next time I’m in Israel, I would love to buy you a coffee!

  • Jan White

    Thank you, Mrs. Ragen, you always say it as it is, even with the knowledge that so many do not want to KNOW OR ADMIT that this Hell is our new life. G-d bless you.

  • Charlotte Curry

    I stand with Israel. Thank you for this wonderful blog post, which I am sharing.