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.

Subscribe to Naomi's Blog

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

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 - is a chilling tale of the paths that so easily lead us astray, and the darkness within us all. “שטן
Click the book’s cover to learn more.

Watch Valérie Abécasis' interview with Naomi on French Channel 24's Culture program. The interview (in French) begins at the 4:00 minute mark.

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.

Nic Nie MówMay 2017 – The Polish translation of Devil in Jerusalem is published as Nic Nie Mów.

April 2017 – Naomi speaks about her books at the Ivan M. Stettenham Library at the Streicker Centre in New York City.

March 2017 – Naomi tours the Paris region to speak about her new book Les Soeurs Weiss, the French translation of The Sisters Weiss.

January 2017 – Naomi is interviewed by Valérie Abécasis on French Channel 24‘s Culture program. The interview (in French) begins at the 4:00 minute mark.

“LesDecember 2016Les Soeurs Weiss, the French translation of The Sisters Weiss, is published.

October 2016The 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 Sarah 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 Same Old Story

Lately all of the political discussions I’ve been having with people on the left have more or less gotten to the following point:

True, Arafat isn’t trustworthy. But what choice do we have? We have to negotiate with him.

Then, of course there is the usual back and forth about what value there is in reaching an agreement with someone who has no credibility, a history of ignoring every compromise reached, and a tendency for Goebbel’s-like propoganda to deflect any hope of real peace – or even just a cessation of hostilities.

And then we get to the third part: “Do you have a better solution?” my partners in discussion inevitably say, a bit put out. After all, in the end, we will wind up at the negotiating table. Why shed more blood? They usually say this after an Israeli bus blows up, or a mother of five is shot in the head by Palestinians while in her car.

The incredible naivete of this argument always boggles my mind. Who in heaven’s name promises you, my dear friends, that there is a solution to the problems of the Middle East that can be reached by negotiations? When has crude, relentless power-seeking, religious fanacticism and blind hatred been amenable to the blah-blah of well-dressed diplomats?

I’ll tell you when. When one side has no military option. Which is why Hitler blitzed London, and the Americans blitzed Berlin. True, in the end, they all wound up negotiating. But the ones who won got to dictate the terms, remember? It took five military victories to convince the Arab world to negotiate. Had even one ended in defeat, there would have been no diplomats and no blah-blah.

And no Israel.

At this point in the discussion, I always turn to my very sincere friend on the left and say: No. I have no solution. This is the way Jews have always lived in every generation: fending off hatred, baseless attacks, blood libels, attempts to throw them out of their peaceful homes (there is always a good reason to throw Jews out of their homes – every single nation in the world has always had a very, very sound reason…)., or murder them in their beds.

Why assume we were destined to fare differently? Why do you think our generation is destined to live any differently? Are we, after all, so special? Are we seeking peace more fervently than the Jews of Czarist Russia? More eager to be part of the greater world than the cultured, assimilationist Jews of Germany? Smarter or more accomplished than the talented Jews of Europe?

What is the solution to the irrational disease of Jew-hatred that is once again erupting all over the world, charring synagogues in Australia, defacing Hebrew schools in France, sending crazies to attack Jewish institutions in America? You tell me, friend. I’d love to know.

Some Jews are certain they do: if only the Israelis would be nicer, giving Arafat the West Bank, Jerusalem, his own state, more guns….then there wouldn’t be any Jew- hatred. Then I, in Palo Alto , Buenos Aires, and Toulouse would be safe, beloved by my neighbors.

According to that theory, fifty-five years ago , when there was no PLO, no West Bank, no Israel, we Jews should have enjoyed unprecedented popularity the world over. When the boat of Jewish refugees, the St. Louis, was wandering around looking for sanctuary, people in every nation should have been begging: Please, please, come live with us you wonderful, non-West –Bank-settler –Jewish- people! Even the Americans — our liberal uncle with the good advice, the great believer in a solution to every problem, couldn’t find a solution to the Jews on the St. Louis and so sent them back to be gassed in Germany.

That’s why we needed the State of Israel; why we fought so hard for it. Remember?

So, what’s my solution, you shrug and ask? Sorry. Don’t have one. What I do have is a philosophy: I think we Jews (Israelis, if you like –- it’s all the same to the folks out there, something Israelis find difficult to digest) are stuck with our fate, our history, our place in the world. In the Middle Ages, everyone agreed we were damned for refusing to accept their own particular Messiah. Then they were convinced we were poisoning their wells, draining their children’s blood to use as baking liquid ;that we ruled the world with a secret conspiracy and/or that we were genetically inferior and corrupting their perfect bloodlines…

And in this generation, they are telling the tale of the evil Jewish soldier who – when he can take time off from raping Palestinian women (hey, they show it on Palestinian Authority television every day — so what if they use actors?) just marches into those idyllically peaceful little West Bank villages and shoots innocent Palestinian children as they sleep sweetly in their beds…

As with all anti-Semitic blood libels, there is no point in trying to enlighten the true believers. Mr. Time Magazine, and Mr. CNN (now partners-lucky us) are just giving the public what they want to read. CNN never, ever fails to mention that the “settlements are illegal under international law.”

What law is that, Mr. CNN? As far as I know, the Arabs never accepted any demarcation line as a border with Israel. And thus, after the Six Day War, Israel was under no legal obligation to return to her previous borders. UN resolutions 242 and 338 call for the Arabs and Israel to negotiate “secure and recognized boundaries.” That has still not been done, and thus there is nothing illegal about the settlements.

But from what I gather from my friends on the left, that’s not the point.

For them, the unforgivable crime of the settlers is that they’ve deliberately chosen to build their homes among thousands of Moslem Arabs. Excuse me? Is this not the Middle East? Look around you. Moslems, Moslems everywhere. And they’ve convinced the rest of the world that they have the inalienable right to prevent people of any other religion from living in peace in the region. Look at the Christian Arabs in Lebanon. Or in Bethlehem…

And now, having convinced no one, especially not my partner on the left, I must say the following: The Jews of our generation have, it seems to me, two choices: We can live with faith and courage, facing the truth about the irrational hatred that has once again erupted and engulfed us, and doing what we can to defend ourselves, verbally and militarily. Or, we can give up and give in, siding with our enemies and losing no opportunity to disparage, excoriate, and condemn ourselves in the hope of being considered “good Jews,” as opposed to the “bad Jews” with whom we will cut all ties, thus sparing ourselves their obviously well-deserved and awful fate.

Those who know Jewish history realize that the latter doesn’t work: We’ve unfortunately been there, done that. Hitler was not impressed.

So, I guess, that leaves us with option one: faith, courage and self-reliance, which is, come to think of it, not a bad legacy to hand down to the next generation. They will no doubt need it. For whatever they do, they too will find themselves struggling with different versions of the same old story.

Comments are closed.