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.


My Friend Ishmael

“Last year, at UC Berkeley, I had the opportunity to ‘dialogue’ with some of the organizers of these [Israel Apartheid Week] events. My perspective is unique, both as the vice consul for Israel in San Francisco, and as a Bedouin and the highest-ranking Muslim representing Israel in the United States. I was born into a Bedouin tribe in northern Israel, one of eleven children, and began life as shepherd living in our family tent. I went on to serve in the Israeli border police, and later earned a Masters degree in Political Science from Tel Aviv University before joining the Israel Foreign Ministry.

“I am a proud Israeli – along with many other non-Jewish Israelis such as Druze, Bahai, Bedouin, Christians and Muslims, who live in one of the most culturally diversified societies and the only true democracy in the Middle East. Like America, Israeli society is far from perfect, but … by any yardstick you choose – educational opportunity, economic development, women and homosexual rights, freedom of speech and assembly, legislative representation — Israel’s minorities are far far better off than in any other country in the Middle East.

“So, I would like to share the following with organizers of Israel Apartheid week, for those of them who are open to dialogue and not blinded by a hateful ideology:

You are part of the problem, not part of the solution …”

So wrote my friend Ishmael Khaldi, the first Bedouin diplomat in the Israeli Foreign Ministry, in 2009. As a diplomat, Khaldi has been the face of the Foreign Ministry’s fight against BDS, and has been sent to the absolute worst postings, hotbeds of Israel-hatred. He encountered the ugliest faces of Israel’s enemies: serving in San Francisco he argued with the radical Berkeley crowd, was shouted down in places like the University of Edinburgh, and on campus hotbeds of anti-Semitism like Tufts and Kent State where police had to be called in, people spit in his face and called him a traitor and Uncle Tom. In Canada, they even called him Joseph Goebbels! With incredible courage, he faced them all down, matching the passion of these Israel-haters with the passion of his love for the State of Israel.

But now Ishmael suddenly finds himself in hot water of another kind, all his attempts to gain reassignment to a new Foreign Ministry posting (he actually asked to be sent to Eritrea!) stymied, his letters to his superiors ignored or dismissed. And all because he lost his temper and posted something on Facebook he almost immediately erased, and later apologized for.

My friend Ishmael is a proud and passionate man, a true Israeli and a Bedouin loyal to his village and his culture. It is not empty rhetoric when he defends Israel as a paragon of true democracy and diversity based on his own rise as an Israeli citizen. Last year Ishmael’s passion ran away with him and he angrily put a post on his private Facebook page in which he accused the Zevulun Regional Council and the Israel Lands Authority of “Bedouin heritage cleansing” because the council plans to sell plots in his native village near Haifa to people from outside the village, “including Arab real-estate machers/traders.”

The result of this policy, he said, is that local residents won’t be able to afford the land, “leading to the elimination/ cleansing of Bedouin heritage, tradition and norms.”

Khaldi continued, “What to do? Keep fighting. Even if we need to go to the ICJ (International Court of Justice!) We won’t allow the council to turn Khawalid [ his village] into an isolated ghetto!!” 

As someone who has (often?) written passionate posts in the heat of true idealism – and out of love – and later lived to regret it when all hell broke loose, I understand where he was coming from. But he did the right thing to erase it and apologize. All would have been well if not for the fact that someone had copied his private post and broadcast it on a right-wing website -– after he’d already erased it – where the entire Israeli Foreign Ministry got to read it and be suitably horrified. Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely (who is also a friend of mine, and a talented, religious Jewish Knesset Member of great competence said, when interviewed by the same right-wing publication) that the Ministry “will not tolerate a situation where an Israel diplomat gives backing to the industry of lies against Israel.” 

Such irony makes me want to laugh — or cry.

And so, here we are. A sincere warrior for Israel’s image, who established the first and only diplomatic position dedicated to fighting BDS, is now being turned into an “enemy of the State” because of some stupid, regrettable Facebook post he tells me was too hyperbolic and ludicrous for anyone to believe was sincere in the first place.

I am writing this column for a number of reasons. First of all, personal. I have known Ishmael for many years and admired him and loved his book: A Shepherd’s Journey: The Story of Israel’s First Bedouin Diplomat, in which he writes how the first time he came to Manhattan he didn’t know how to cross to the downtown side of the subway, so he climbed down to the tracks and walked over. That it was a true story, and that he, who had walked six kilometers from a Bedouin tent with no running water or electricity to go to school, and now had graduate degrees and was working as an Israeli diplomat, made me love Israel even more. 

But the main reason I am writing this is that during a war you don’t sideline your best general. The war we are in with BDS and anti-Semitism in the guise of anti-Israel propaganda is exploding with force everywhere. There is simply no one of Ishmael’s stature, unique background and sincere abilities to take his place. He’s been in limbo now for thirteen months. Enough! Point made! The time has come to send Ishmael on the road, where he can stand up for us as only he knows how.

8 comments to My Friend Ishmael

  • shimshon bitnun

    the decision to discharge and condemn ISHMAEL is inappropriate and unjustified.this is a fine human being who has overcome incredible obstacles to enter the diplomatic corp,who has proved his worth to his community and country and who desperately needs our support in his time of need!to whom can we write to oppose and rectify this malice?PLEASE publish an address urgently,or better ,an email address
    sincerely yours-dr shimshon bitnun

  • Naomi R

    What an amazing human being. Had sad that having accomplished so much seems not to matter where hatred is concerned. Thank you Naomi.

  • Sherman M. Kaplan

    I have sent a copy of this letter to the Consul General of Israel, Chicago Consulate, asking that his office look into this case and provide Justice.

  • Shirley Grey

    Makes me sad. Anything we (American Jew living in USA) can do to help? Shirley



  • Minel Kupferberg

    I am confused.
    On the internet, I find Naomi Ragen as Jewish, born in the USA.
    In this article, she claims to be Beduin.
    What is the truth, are there two Naomi Ragen?

    • Jennifer Friedman

      She isn’t claiming to be Bedouin. She has a friend who is Bedouin and she posted something written by the Bedouin friend and then commented on it.

    • Jonathan Glaser

      Nowhere in this piece does Naomi claim to be a Bedouin. She quotes Ishmael’s comments, wherein he qualifies his background as being Bedouin.