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.


The Agony and the Ecstasy

The electrifying news that a deal had been reached to free kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit came a day before the Sukkot holiday. The initial euphoria that this national nightmare was finally coming to an end soon gave way to a mixture of emotions, from outrage over the dangerous murderers to be released as part of the deal to fear of allowing Hamas to claim a major victory, setting a precedent for the future.

For me, there was a particular anguish: Nasser Batima, convicted of planning the 2002 Passover suicide bomber attack on the Park Hotel, was one of those to be released.

My mind went back to 2002. There I was in the Park Hotel in Netanya moments before the Seder. I watched the lobby filling up with families like ours. It was a hotel known for its cheap prices and bad food, a place that catered to elderly survivors on a tight budget who wished to invite their families to join them for Seder night.

That’s what we were doing there, my husband, my two sons and my daughter-in-law. It was too hard for Bubbe and Zayde to travel to Jerusalem to join us, so they’d invited us to join them.

“My children are so late,” a woman turned to me and said. “It’s the traffic,” I remember comforting her. Later, when the bomb ripped apart the building, turning it into a literal sea of blood and dripping electric wires, I wondered if her family had shown up and what had happened to them.

A few months after the bombing, some of us survivors gathered in Caesarea to discuss that night. Although the ostensible purpose of the meeting was to consider suing the owners of the hotel for lax security, I think the real reason was just to vent our grief and outrage with others who had been there. I was the rare lucky one whose family had escaped death or injury: We had had a private table on the second floor of the hotel. The only other family upstairs was that of the hotel owner, who was killed in the attack.

Of the hotel’s 250 guests, 30 had died and 140 had been injured, 30 of them seriously. At this meeting I sat next to the Kormans, who had lost both of their elderly parents. The worst hit had been the Viders, who lost their son Sgt. Sivan Vider, 20, and their father, Ze’ev Vider, 50, and whose other family members had been badly injured.

We were unbloodied, but not untraumatized. My new daughter-in-law, who wanted to start a family, lost her period for a year (they now have four kids, thank God). My father-in-law temporarily lost his hearing. And the scenes of devastation are forever etched in our memories.

When Batima and the other terrorists responsible were caught and tried, they received 29 consecutive life sentences plus 30 years. And now, after serving barely nine years, Batima was going free, probably to murder again.

I felt sickened and furious.

As I examined the list further, I saw to my shock that the killers of Nachshon Wachsman, the soldier son of my friends Yehuda and Esther, were also going to be released: Yehiya As-Sinwar, who was one of the founders of Hamas’s security forces in Gaza and was involved in Nachson’s abduction and murder, and Jihad Yarmur, who drove the kidnap vehicle and participated in the killing.

I knew this would be much more complicated for Esther than it was for me. First, she had lost her son, and second, from the beginning of Gilad Shalit’s abduction, she had been deeply involved with the Shalit family.

Hesitantly, I picked up the phone.

“How are you?” I asked her, almost afraid to find out.

She told me she’d been there, in the protest tent with Noam and Aviva Shalit, when the word came that the government had struck a deal to free Gilad.

“They’re letting out the Park Hotel killer. And my son’s,” she acknowledged.

“How do you feel about it?”

“Of course, I have mixed feelings. It’s complicated. But when I hugged Aviva Shalit and saw the joy in her eyes, I had no mixed feelings. Her son is coming home to her.”

We talked a few more minutes. We needed to get together more often, she said. “I need your hug.”

“And I need yours,” I told her.

I hung up the phone with a knot in my throat, but somehow feeling comforted. If Esther was all right, I would also be all right. If her heart was large enough to hold both the never-ending grief for her son along with the joy for Aviva Shalit’s boy’s release, whatever the personal price, then perhaps I, too, had underestimated my own heart.

Tomorrow, I thought, we will have to talk about government policy. We will have to talk about the death penalty for heinous crimes so that this never happens again. We will talk about our government issuing warnings to Hamas that the next time they try this, we will carpet-bomb Gaza. But today, we could rejoice that Gilad Shalit was coming home.


This article was first published in the November/December 2011 issue of Moment.


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