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.

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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.


Join Naomi in New York at the Skirball Center's Meet the Author Evening on April 25, 2017 at 6:30PM.





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.


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

Categories

The Tragedy on Both Sides … blah blah blah …

I’ve been getting alot of bleeding heart mail lately about the tragedy on both sides, blah, blah….

Please read the following summary and you’ll understand why I wrote blah, blah. It’s by leiah@elbaum.org.

As you probably know by now, Saturday night’s Jerusalem bombings were just the beginning. Sunday morning came news of a drive-by shooting near the Israeli village of Alei Sinai in northern Gaza. A few hours later all other news was superseded by an even worse atrocity, when a Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up inside a bus in the northern Israeli port city of Haifa.

Other terror attacks – several shootings and another bombing – followed across the country. In less than 24 hours, twenty-six Israelis had been killed and hundreds wounded, many seriously.

Especially at times like this, after Israel has suffered such horrific terror attacks, people often make comments along the lines of “well, if only you guys would stop hating each other there would be peace” or “this conflict is about irrational hatred on both sides”. The implication is that both sides have been active in fostering hostile attitudes and blocking reconciliation and that we are all equally to blame in the impasse.

I beg to differ. I belong to a generation which has been brought up to believe that peace is just around the corner. The Israeli-Egyptian peace accords and the first Camp David negotiations took place when we were in kindergarten. We were brought up with the idea that Egypt was Israel’s new  friend, and that soon the rest of the Arab world would follow. The Israeli song “Ani Noladati Leshalom” (I was born for peace), composed specially for Egyptian President Sadat’s historic visit to Jerusalem, was an anthem of our childhood.

The generation after us has grown up with the idea that peace was even closer, that Yasir Arafat and his Palestinian Authority were Israel’s friends and that Jordan’s King Hussein was a kindly uncle. This is the generation who grew up with the Oslo Accords process, begun almost 8 years ago. This is the generation of Israeli-Palestinian Sesame Street in Hebrew and Arabic, peace workshops and dreams of weekend shopping trips to Damascus or relaxing in Gaza City cafes with our new Palestinian buddies.

Oslo, we were told, was the start of a new age of peace and reconciliation. Israeli musicians, at the forefront of the peace campaign, brought us a plethora of peace songs, both writing new ones and reviving old ones. “Shir LeShalom” (song to peace), written decades ago, received a new lease of life as the anthem of the Oslo era. The song calls on Israelis to forget the many casualties of past wars, for the dead cannot return, and instead to cast our eyes to the future, to sing a song to peace.

School curricula, the media and popular culture reinforced this message. We were encouraged to understand the Palestinian side of things, to feel the Palestinians’ pain, to learn their perspective on history as part of this historic reconciliation. Arafat, Erekat, Sha’ath and other senior PLO and PA officials became VIPs in Israel, members of the Israeli celebrity A list. Everyone from politicians to children’s show presenters rushed to Gaza City to meet them and have their photos taken. It was taken for granted by most Israelis that Oslo would end with a Palestinian state alongside Israel, and that the two states would live side by side.

Yes, we suffered terrorism, indeed the Oslo peace process brought with it some of the worst terror attacks in Israel’s history, but this, we were told, was the work of fringe extremists. Peace was just around the corner.

Peace was the highest goal, superseding all other goals and it was there for the taking, just a few more Israeli concessions away. The Oslo process brought a peace treaty with Jordan, flourishing markets sprang up in Palestinian villages and new joint Israeli-Palestinian industrial zones in border areas created new jobs. These were the images we were encouraged to put our faith in, and who wouldn’t want to believe this rosy side of Oslo? Israel is a nation which has craved peace since its birth, when the armies of seven Arab states massed to crush the infant Jewish state one day after it declared independence. Oslo offered the hope that life would not always be lived from one Arab assault to the next. Oslo offered the hope of normal peaceful relations with all our neighbours.

Yet there was and is a dark side to Oslo, a side which the media, politicians and intelligentsia worked hard to play down. While Israeli schoolchildren were being raised on a peace curriculum, the nascent Palestinian Authority, the Palestinians’ government in waiting created by Oslo, was building a state founded on hate. The new Palestinian Authority schools and youth movements teach a curriculum which presents Israel as the enemy, which drips anti-Semitism and encourages Palestinian youth to kill and die for the Palestinian cause. Summer camps for children as young as eight feature weapons drills and train them in guerrilla tactics for use against Israeli towns.

Official Palestinian television from its inception broadcast children’s shows in which, against a background of cute Disney characters, little Palestinian boys and girls sang about their desire to be martyrs in the struggle against Israel and of how they hoped to die gloriously in battle.

Suicide bombers are role models for Palestinian tots. Palestinian media and television, closely controlled by Arafat’s Palestinian Authority, broadcast programmes filled with hate, holocaust revisionism, classic anti-Semitic stories about blood libels and Jews poisoning the water, and false histories denying that the Jews ever had a religious or national connection, or indeed any other, to the region. Palestinian songs, including those sung at public events attended by Arafat and senior Palestinian negotiators, featured verses about recapturing Haifa, Ashkelon, Petah Tikva and Safed – cities within the internationally-recognised boundaries of Israel.

The Palestinian Authority launched an all-out campaign to deny Jewish history. Suddenly Jesus was a Palestinian Arab – even though the Arab conquest of the region took place many centuries after the birth of Christianity, and Jesus was, of course, a Jew from Judea, as described in the Christian Bible. Palestinian leaders claimed there had never been a Jewish Temple on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. At the same time they began destroying archaeological remains at the site – attempting to wipe out millennia of Jewish and Christian history in the region. Palestinian propaganda maintained that traditional Jewish holy sites such as Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus / Shekhem, the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron and Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem were “Zionist myths” and were in fact exclusively Islamic sites.

When in 1999 I took a tour to the Nablus region organised by the Palestinian Authority’s tourism wing, the official Palestinian Authority guide omitted virtually all Jewish connections with the region, rewriting history to exclude the ancient Israelite period. As anyone who has read the Bible knows, the ancient city of Shekhem features pretty prominently in ancient Israelite history. All this formed the basis for a Palestinian campaign to portray Israel as a relic of European colonialism, a foreign interloper in the Arab Muslim Middle East, and so avoid according any legitimacy to our presence and the existence of a Jewish state here.

The Israeli public had looked upon the Oslo Accords as an historic mutual reconciliation in which Israelis and Palestinians accepted one another’s legitimacy and agreed to historic compromises for the sake of peace. The Palestinians meanwhile looked upon it as the first phase in their victory over Israel.

The Israelis had 8 years of peace education. The Palestinians had 8 years of war education.

When, during the summer 2000 Camp David peace talks, the Palestinian leadership decided to reject Israel’s openness to painful compromises and willingness to reach a negotiated settlement – refusing even to respond with a counteroffer – the Palestinian people were ready for violent confrontation, which in their eyes had never ended. For them the Oslo peace process was a tactical move, not a rejection of their “armed struggle”.

So when Yasser Arafat began his latest war against Israel, the Palestinian people were well prepared.

The Israeli public, on the other hand, were not. Years of peace education, peace songs and reconciliation projects had left the Israeli public expecting peace, not another war. Israelis were looking forward to the day some time soon, Prime Minister Barak had promised us, when Israeli men would no longer have to do military reserve duty. Suddenly, with Arab attacks on several fronts, many Israelis received emergency call-up papers.

The dream of Oslo had turned into a nightmare.

Too late we now realise that peace was never even on the Palestinian agenda. This is not about hating each other. This is not about a failed peace process. This is about a Palestinian leadership which never had any desire to change its ultimate goal of destroying Israel. There never was an intention on their part to commit to real peace. It was just a tactic, as the late Palestinian “moderate” Faisal Husseini put it recently, to bring an armed Palestinian army into the heart of Israel in the guise of the Trojan horse of peace.

And we Israelis fell for it hook, line and sinker. We wanted peace, real peace, Belgium and Luxembourg peace, so badly, that we were prepared to overlook everything, even to help arm a tens-of-thousands-strong Palestinian army. Now we’re paying the price, and, sadly, so once again are the Palestinian people, led down the path to war by their leadership.

I remember the euphoria when this all began in September 1993 when I was 18. I spent Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, with friends in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City. Their parents took us on a nighttime walk over the roofs and walls of old Jerusalem and told us enthusiastically how finally this ancient city would know peace. They pointed out the Muslim areas which would be part of a Palestinian state and the Jewish areas which would remain Israeli and we would all be happy, having finally settled all the old disputes.

Walking down to Shiloah, the spring which fed ancient Jerusalem, for the traditional tashlikh ritual, we passed the Arab houses of Silwan, once a Jewish village, now Arab, which borders the southern edge of the Old City. The Arabs greeted us with shouts of Shalom and Salaam, and we responded with the Arabic Merhaba (hello). They waved Palestinian flags and we smiled back, confident that this was a sign that we were on the road to the longed for peace and reconciliation.

Little did we know that their aspirations and understanding of peace and ours were so different.

leiah@elbaum.org

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