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.


Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

May we always be able to provide a home, a life, a future for all those distant members of our far-flung family who, for whatever reason, have joined us in our old/new land. And, like ancient Israel, may we continue to have our separate tribes, each with its own disparate cultural heritage and talents, all of them adding so much color, variety and joy to our collective lives.

I’m feeling nostalgic this week, maybe because the old year is over and the new one is about to begin.

Or maybe it’s because as I get older, the years get so much shorter.

Like the age we live in, where clicking your finger on a button or swiping it across a screen changes the view instantaneously, it feels like there are fewer than seven days in a week and that the intervening days from Shabbat to Shabbat are condensed. By the time I’ve put the Shabbat leftovers in a plastic containers, it’s time to wash them out and fill them with freshly cooked food.

I think this whole mood started on a recent Friday morning when I was standing in line at the relatively new French Ness bakery on Rahel Imenu Street in the German Colony, waiting to pay for a halla. Surrounded by French-speaking customers and the charming storeowners, I felt as if I was back in Paris in one of the heavenly kosher pâtisseries with their unmatchable, irresistibly beautiful selection of croissants, multicolored macaroons (which bear not the slightest resemblance or taste to the sticky, starchy Passover coconut variety we gag on), tarts and baguettes.

Since my own aliya in 1971, I’ve had the enormous privilege of being an eyewitness to the prophetic ingathering of the exiles, kibbutz galuyot, that has brought wave after wave of new Israelis to our shores. And as I stood there, breathing in the marvelous scent of French confections, I couldn’t help but think how each aliya has enriched our country – and our lives – immeasurably. I say this despite the image in my head of the legendary comedy skit in which each successive wave of aliya stands on the beach bemoaning the new arrivals – the German Jews horrified at the Moroccan Jews, the Moroccans at the Russians, etc., until each gets off the boat and joins the others to bemoan the next wave of newcomers.

The Russians who came in the late 70’s brought with them the sacrifice and vision of Natan Sharansky and other Prisoners of Zion. They became both national leaders and heroes, imparting some of their own matchless idealism and determination to live authentic Jewish lives to our hardworking, often careless and prosaic Zionism, reminding us that we lived not only in a country, but in the fulfillment of thousands of years of Jewish prayers, longing and dreams for a better life for the Jewish people. The later Russian aliya of the 90’s, while less idealistic and more practical, also brought with it thousands of educated, cultured, ambitious new citizens who improved our lives on every level, introducing and nurturing a love for classical dance, music and literature, filling concert halls and theaters and producing their own newspapers, magazines and television shows. They also led the country away from its early romance with socialism, having been there and done that. They knew better than naïve kibbutznikim.

I think it was the Ethiopians, though, who came closest to epitomizing the miraculous fulfillment of Jeremiah’s ringing words in the haftara for the second day of Rosh Hashana: “See I bring them home … and gather them from the uttermost ends of the earth … the woman with child and she that gives birth … He that scatters Israel will bring them back together.” Was there any Israeli whose heart did not stir with emotion at the sight of those who had walked through jungles and deserts to reach their homeland, losing precious family members along the way? Every time I see a beautiful Ethiopian family, a young, strong, straight-backed Ethiopian IDF soldier, a lovely, dark-skinned, beauty-contest winner, I think of not only how their presence and contributions have helped to make Israel a prospering modern country, but of how their inspiring example helped us to fulfill what we hoped our country would be: a real homeland for all our people, a place where when you have to go there, it can and will do everything it can to take you in.

And now the French have come. Here in the German Colony, French has become almost a second language. Like every other wave of aliya, the newcomers stick together as they learn the language and customs and acclimate. And in so doing, they bring some of what enriched their lives in their old country, sharing it with all of us and enriching all our lives.

I wish I could point to a vast American aliya. While the numbers are increasing – Nefesh B’Nefesh alone has brought in over 20,000 new olim from North America since 2002 – the 100,000 or so North American Jews pale in comparison to those from say, Morocco or Russia. But Americans and Canadians, despite their numbers, represent a new kind of aliya.

Rather than escaping to find a better, safer life, these olim often leave behind material comforts. Theirs is an aliya of choice, not necessity.

I was once invited to the President’s Residence (the president himself, who is now living in far less grand accommodations, shall remain nameless) as part of a program to honor American and Canadian aliya. There I found myself among artists, writers, musicians and high-level IDF and government officials. But when I think of the contribution of my fellow immigrants from North America, I think of Roz and Paul Schneid, a Yale graduate and editor of the Encyclopedia Judaica respectively, who decided to answer the government’s call to set up hothouses in Gush Katif in the 1970s and who became successful farmers, parents of eight remarkably successful and idealistic children, who cure our sick and protect our borders. I think of the years they spent on the front lines, keeping terrorists from setting up rocket launchers close to our borders, until their son’s own army unit was commanded by idiot politicians to remove them from their home, which was plowed under. I met them the other day at the wedding of the daughter of another of our dear fellow American olim friends. They have relocated to Hispin on the Syrian border in the Golan. Despite everything, they are loyal citizens and the matriarch and patriarch of a remarkable clan of the best kind of Israeli.

As we sit here watching with horror at what is taking place across our borders, as Egyptians murder each other, Syrians gas and bomb their children and the Lebanese cauldron boils and bubbles and overflows with malice toward all, the truth is being brought home to us every single day of just how fortunate we are that, despite our vast differences, they have never prevented us from standing together as one against all outside threats. Indeed, being forced to seal our borders against our hate-filled neighbors has simply created a pressure cooker that has formed our disparate coals into one, hard, beautiful and many- faceted diamond.

May we always be able to provide a home, a life, a future for all those distant members of our far-flung family who, for whatever reason, have joined us in our old/new land. And, like ancient Israel, may we continue to have our separate tribes, each with its own disparate cultural heritage and talents, all of them adding so much color, variety and joy to our collective lives.

The four corners of the earth are a vast place. I look to the future in hope, wondering what the next aliya will bring.


This column was first published in the Jerusalem Post on 30 August 2013.

7 comments to Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

  • Esther Whitmore

    Dear Naomi, your books accompanied me through life. I am very moved by your beautiful essay. Israel in the Middle East sparkles like a diamond in the dirt. I made alliyah there in 1957 from Poland: my family escaped from antisemitism as soon as we could. My father was murdered in Belzec and my mother was shot in a pogrom in Poland in 1945. I eventually married an American tourist in search for a wife. In the US I became a psychologist during my long widowhood and brought up two wonderful children. I have now three grandchildren. I have visited Israel over the years and watched it becoming a modern, wonderful Western country.I love it with all my heart and pray for it every Shabbat in our synagogue. Esther.CEX

  • Naomi R.

    A beautiful and heartening description of Israeli life. Thank you Naomi. G’mar Chatima tova to you, your loved ones and Klal Yisrael.

  • Dear Naomi,
    Everything you write warms my heart and opens my eyes. I particularly loved this piece. How fortunate you are to have witnessed the assimilation
    of Jews from the 4 corners of the earth and to be able to put it in a perspective as only you can. Our small Reform Temple in NJ is similar to the Israel of yesterday and today, “with its own disparate cultural heritage and talents”. I’d like to have your permission to read or have our Rabbi read this article at our Shabbat service.
    L’Shana Tova to you and those you hold dear. Best wishes always.

  • matty

    dear naomi,no one could have said it better than you.i truly enjoy all that you are an insperation to all of us who read what you have to say.shana tova vemetuka yours ,matty


  • Jackie Maleck

    I just want tot thank you for all of the enriching moments I have spent reading your books and imagining that I too would one day have a chance to walk on the ground my darling grandmother so wanted to see before her death. Unfortunately, she wasn’t able to do that physically, but I still remember her joy at being given a small sack of earth from Israel, and how she was buried with that precious link to the land she loved.
    Mrs. Ragen, we have booked a trip to Israel for this coming February-March and it represents not only my dream, but my grandmothers wish finally coming to fruition.
    I am a 67 year old grandmother myself and my wonderful partner, Burt has booked the trip because he knows it has been my dream for many years.

    He and I,(to be honest,) are worried that the unrest will cause the travel company to cancel our chance to see Israel and I am hoping that perhaps you will share some words with us that will give us hope and put our fears to rest.

    I have just finished reading ‘Chains around the Grass’ and while seeing how Sara was able to quiet her fears and step into the future I felt more confident that we too will make that leap. I would so love to have some words of reassurance from you.

    May Israel continue to be the strong and resilient nation I hold in my heart —

    Jackie Maleck-(who also grew up in New York–Middle Village to be exact)

  • Emily Panzer DeRosa

    May we all be entered into the BOOK OF LIFE and all of Eratz Israel, and all good people everywhere, be
    protected from the terrorists who want only to destroy the world.
    No live and let live, no peace or love or joy–just destruction!
    Shana Tovah to all