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's latest novel, An Unorthodox Match, will be published this month, on September 24th. Naomi will be visiting the US and speaking in the following cities:

Ft. Lauderdale, Florida; Miami Beach, Florida; Boca Raton, Florida; Miami, Florida; Dallas, Texas; Los Angeles, California; Detroit, Michigan; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Nyack, New York.

Check out her full lecture schedule here.

Naomi's newest novel (her eleventh!), An Unorthodox Match, will be published on September 24, 2019.

The Hebrew version (צמאה לך נפשי) is already available, and has been on best-seller lists in Israel since its first week.
Click the covers to learn more.

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.

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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.


How Israel Is Failing Its Ethiopian Citizens

This July, thousands of Ethiopian Jews participated in sit-ins, blocking main roads all over Israel with burning tires. More than 100 police officers were injured and more than 136 demonstrators arrested. The immediate catalyst was the death of Ethiopian Israeli teenager Soloman Teka at the hands of an off-duty policeman.

While protesters claimed Teka had been shot in cold blood, the officer testified he had simply been relaxing in the park with his family when a fight broke out and he attempted to break it up, at which point his life was threatened. The bullet, he claimed, had been aimed at the ground but ricocheted, killing Teka accidentally. Forensic reports later corroborated this.

Teka’s family and their supporters aren’t buying it: “They’re killing my son a second time,” Teka’s father told a press conference in mid-July, as numerous eyewitnesses testified that the policeman was 20 meters away and in no danger. Sami Baruka, the manager of the Kiryat Haim youth center, who had known Teka since he was 11, called him a respectful child who dreamed of combat service in the Israeli army. “I educate the kid to give back [to the community], and in the end they’re bringing him to his parents in a casket,” Baruka said. “The government needs to wake up.”

Ethiopian Jews at the Sigd Festival in Jerusalem

And while the officer involved is under house arrest, charged with “reckless endangerment,” furious protesters don’t understand why he isn’t in jail for manslaughter.

Given the growing number of similar deaths of Ethiopian Israelis, this anger and suspicion are understandable. There was the case of mentally ill Yehuda Biadga, 24, shot dead by police earlier this year as he lunged at an officer with a kitchen knife; and Yosef Salamsa, 22, who police claimed was drunk and disorderly, and who apparently took his own life after undergoing numerous run-ins with police and being tasered. No charges were brought against officers in either incident. Despite sincere efforts at internal police investigations, it seems unlikely that conclusions will alleviate the community’s suspicions that their children are unfairly targeted.

For me and most Israelis, these demonstrations are a heartbreaking wake-up call. The repatriation of Beta Yisrael, or The House of Israel—as the Ethiopian Jewish community is known in Hebrew—began as the stunning fulfillment of Biblical prophecy and Zionist ideology.

Top-secret missions to save Ethiopian Jews from famine, political upheaval and anti-Semitism, beginning with Operation Moses in 1984, culminated in the thrilling and heroic Operation Solomon in May 1991, as the Israeli Air Force secretly swooped in over two days to rescue nearly 15,000 desperate Jews who had trekked more than 400 miles from Gondar to Addis Ababa. The achievement filled us with pride. As then-Air Force commander Major General Avihu Ben-Nun declared, “Operation Solomon truly represents what Zionism is.” It evoked biblical prophecy: “And I will gather them from the ends of the earth…the blind and the lame…those with child and those in labor…In a vast throng they will return here” (Jeremiah 31:8). Many in Israel, myself included, were entranced by the seemingly exotic newcomers who had faced such peril.

We never heard of their hardships upon arrival: Government officials separated communities to “prevent ghettoization,” thus depriving them of the strong tribal and family support networks they depended on; educators and social workers serving them received no special training and had no language skills to help them. It took years for the government to admit its mistakes.

But more tragic than bureaucratic incompetence was the shameful, deep-rooted racial prejudice they were forced to endure on a daily basis, ranging from ugly interactions on public buses to rejections of their school and job applications. Most poisonous of all was their experience with Israeli police.

In 2015, Damas Pakada, a 21-year-old IDF soldier in uniform, was stopped by a policeman in the vicinity of a suspicious package. Pakada later told Ynet that after he was thrown to the ground and beaten, the officer told him, “I’m doing my job, and if I need to put a bullet in your head, I would do it. I am proud of my job.” The video of that incident, which went viral, actually made me cry. Unlike in other cases, the officers involved here were suspended, and a police spokesman called the incident “shameful.”

But such shameful occurrences go beyond police brutality. In 1986, the newspaper Maariv revealed that Ethiopian blood donations to Magen David Adom were being quietly discarded because of fears of disease. In 1985, the Chief Rabbinate overturned its previous decision to accept Beta Yisrael as Jews, requiring them to undergo a symbolic conversion by immersing in the ritual bath. (This has since been overruled.) The Chief Rabbinate has refused to accept Ethiopian religious leaders, qessim, as qualified to practice. This too was overturned, but only last year.

This legacy of insult, misunderstanding and fear will not be easy to overcome. But the new outspokenness of Beta Yisrael shows that despite all barriers, they have become true Israelis.

Referring to the complaints of her fellow Israelis over the violence of recent protests, Ethiopian-Israeli model Yityish “Titi” Aynaw, voted Miss Israel in 2013, had this to say: “I’m sorry about the violence. But there are youngsters from the Ethiopian community who were born here, and they have Israeli chutzpah, and they aren’t going to be silenced anymore.”

This article was originally published in Moment Magazine.


3 comments to How Israel Is Failing Its Ethiopian Citizens

  • Rob

    The Israeli government destroyed their tribal connections to minimize their Judaism and maximize their Israeliness, just as was done to the Mizrachim 30 years prior.

  • I was moved and saddened by reports on Ethiopian Jews.
    A group of woman ..olim chadashim ,wish to assist In any way that can call attention to this terrible
    . issue.


    How sad that as a Jewish nation we are doing the same injustices to our new citizens that were done to us. Disgraceful in its entirety.