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 Jewish Lesson

In the book of Genesis, G-d tells Abraham: “And through you will all the nations of the earth be blessed.”

I’ve often wondered about that blessing we Jews are supposed to bring the world, and how it will come about. If it were up to me, right now, I don’t think I’d be very eager to fulfill such a role. After six months of having the world heap the the vilest slander on my people and my country; after going through Holocaust Memorial Day, and now the Memorial Day for Israel’s fallen soldiers, I don’t think, if it was up to me, that heaping of blessings on the world, particularly my Semitic neighbors, would be high on my list of “must do’s.”

However, since I know the Jewish people’s particular fate isn’t something you get to vote on, I recognize that I, and my fellow Jews will have very little say about this blessing thing either. And so, willy-nilly, we are going to bring blessing to the world. And I’ve finally figured out how.

It was last night, watching the official memorial service for Israel’s fallen soldiers at the Western Wall. And in that holy place, Israel’s top general, its chief of staff, got up to speak.

What do you think he spoke about, the general and army man? If he were any other nationality or religion, and this were any country but Israel, we wouldn’t have to ask: The glory of our fallen heroes. Their bravery on the battlefield, their sacrifice. The greatness of our victories.

But not Israel’s Chief of Staff, Shaul Mofaz. He spoke about remembering the birth of a child. The first picture taken in kindergarten. The first baby tooth that falls. The Bar Mitzvah pictures. The graduation from high school. The mother’s kiss on the cheek of the new recruit. He spoke about the incalculable loss that each human being who dies in war is to his family, his parents, his grandparents, his brothers, sisters, girlfriend, wife, children. About the preciousness of life, and the horror of death.

Long before I became an Israeli and a resident of Jerusalem, I lived in America where I experienced numerous memorial days. There were the red, white and blue flags. But mostly, there were the sales. I don’t think I ever saw the face of a single fallen American soldier on any television show, let alone a day’s worth of shows devoted exclusively to soldiers killed in action, or in traffic accidents, or in terrorist attacks.

Memorial Day in Israel is like nothing else, I dare say, anywhere in the world. The country simply shuts down all distractions. Restaurants, bars, discos close down. Radio and television channels spend the day showing old pictures and new videos of soldiers who died five months, or thirty years ago. And the programs all emphasize the same thing: The man’s childhood, his home, his parents, his wife or girlfriend. The silly pictures from his high school parties. The smiling face of the little boy dressed up for Purim. The words of the friends, who never stop mourning, who never forget.

And for one day, every single person in Israel who identifies with the Jewish state, and the lives of the people who live there, feel these men and women are part of their own past, their own family. We weep because we’ve lost them, weep as we would for the death of a beloved family member, who left this earth too young, too full of life. Weep for the loving family and friends he left behind.

I am always surprised that I have any tears left on Memorial Day here in Israel, following as it does so closely on the heels of Holocaust Remembrance Day. And that my tears flow looser, hotter and with more despair, and my heart aches in the way it does. I figured out why, though, through the years, thereby learning the true secret of the State of Israel. (Come closer, bend your ear, sssssh.) Here it is: The State of Israel has no army.

No, my friend. No army at all. All it has is my husband and son, and your brother, and his son, and their sister’s boy or girl and the neighbor’s kid, and the electrician’s daughter, and the survivor’s grandson — the tall handsome one, who looks like the great-uncle who died in Auschwitz. They all live in the next room, or the next house, or at the very most, an hour’s bus ride away from the central bus station…

There is not a man, woman or child in Israel who has more than one or two degrees of separation between themselves and every, single, solitary, precious boy or girl in uniform who falls defending our lives from real bombs, real bullets, real slaughter.

The Jewish people have a blessing to bring to the world, especially to our Semitic cousins. If only they would stop shouting and crying and threatening long enough to listen, how different their lives would be! And we would give it to them freely, generously, this, our hard-earned knowledge, the knowledge of the Jews.

And it is simply this: that death has no glory. And that a life can never be replaced. There is no honor, no joy, no holiness in bombs and guns and knives and mortars, in wounded flesh, and blood-soaked streets. In dead children, and broken-hearted mothers.

And that peace is a value to be cherished above glorious victories.

If only the BBC, and CNN, and SKY News would stop interviewing the mothers and uncles of suicide bombers, who speak of holy martyrdom, and sacred deaths, and holy wars; if only their confused reporters would simply sit and listen to Israel’s keening on its Memorial Day, and broadcast that to the world instead, what blessing they would bring mankind. What a lesson. And I could cross one more thing off my “to do” list.

1 comment to The Jewish Lesson

  • joel yehūda wolk

    Dear Naomi, Terrific piece. More power to ya. I am a performance poet from America and wish to say I’ve just bookmarked your recent posts and look forward to reading them. B’shalom, Yehūda p.s check out my Linked In account.