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 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.


Our Weakness and Our Strength

Whatever we do, we need to be prepared to wake up and start all over again, continuing to build despite all the destruction.

There is a movie that came out years ago called Groundhog Day, in which the main character is stuck in time and cannot move forward. No matter what decisions he makes, what activities he pursues, each morning he awakens to the exact same scenario.

The recent kidnapping of Eyal Yifrah, Naftali Fraenkel and Gil-Ad Shaer feels exactly like that of Nachshon Wachsman and so many others before him. The same innocent trip home interrupted. The same car with the haredi-looking passengers offering a lift. The same terrified parents realizing the child isn’t home when he said he’d be home. The same national trauma, public prayers, government and army warnings to the enemy. The same hand-wringing deliberations on how to respond.

Terrorist kidnappings in Israel have a long history.

But it is the Hamas terrorist organization, founded in December 1987 by Muslim Brotherhood members Sheik Ahmed Yassin and Mohammad Taha, who came up with the satanic idea to hold kidnapped Israeli soldiers for ransom to free terrorists captured and imprisoned in Israeli jails. It took them a while to perfect it.

On February 16, 1989, Seargent Avi Sasportas of Ashdod was kidnapped when he got into a vehicle with two Hamas murderers dressed as haredim, who almost immediately killed him. There is no record of demands being made for his release, or for his body, which was found buried in a field not far from where he was abducted.

Likewise, Corpral Ilan Saadoun, on his way home from his unit on May 3, 1989, was picked up at the Masmiya junction by a white Subaru with Israeli license plates. Again, the kidnappers were dressed as ultra-Orthodox Jews. The terrorists’ original plan – to hold Saadoun hostage at the Jabaliya refugee camp in Gaza – changed when they saw an IDF patrol. Saadoun, who fought valiantly for his life, was shot in the head.

The Hamas cell responsible for both kidnappings was headed by Mohammed al-Sharatha.

Two days later, Saadoun’s unit declared him missing, and the white Subaru was found burned in an orchard near Beit Lahiya. A month later, the IDF arrested 650 Hamas members, including Sharatha.

Over the years, various groups claimed to be holding Saadoun alive, wanting to exchange him for terrorists, even presenting Saadoun’s dog tag as evidence.

Their claims all proved false, however, and Saadoun’s body was found only after the Oslo Accords, when a map to the burial spot was drawn by one of the killers, who had fled to Dubai.

Hamas founder Yassin, arrested by Israeli forces shortly after Saadoun’s kidnapping, was sentenced to life imprisonment plus 15 years for the murders of Sasportas and Saadoun, while Sharatha was sentenced to three life terms.

In an attempt to free Yassin, a squad of Hamas terrorists kidnapped a Border Police officer, Nissim Toledano, in Lod on December 13, 1992. Israel refused to negotiate until it received proof Toledano was still alive. Proof was not forthcoming, and his body was found the next day near Kfar Adumin. He had been shot and stabbed by Hamas murderers within two to four hours of their deadline.

Undeterred by their failures, two years later on October 9, 1994, Hamas kidnapped Sgt. Nachson Wachsman on his way home from a military training course. Again, the kidnappers wore black kippot and had beards. Hassidic music was playing, and there was a siddur on the dashboard.

For two days, his family had no word of his whereabouts. Then, on October 11, a videotape broadcast showed Wachsman bound hand and foot, your typical jihadi nightmare standing over him with a machine gun. The demands once again included the release of Yassin and another 200 terrorist scum, and gave a deadline of October 15 for Wachsman’s execution.

The Israeli government under Yitzhak Rabin refused to negotiate with terrorists, launching a military operation instead. Having picked up the driver of the kidnap vehicle, Jihad Yarmur, it was determined that Wachsman was being held in a home in the village of Dir Nabala, ironically a 10-minute drive from the Wachsman family’s Ramot home, where his parents and siblings were going through hell.

Twenty-four hours before the deadline, on a Friday night while the hostage’s family was making kiddush, the elite General Staff Reconnaissance Unit attempted to smash through the door of the room where Wachsman was being held. Unbeknown to them, it wasn’t the iron door they had expected, but solid steel. Wachsman was shot and killed by his captors along with Commander Nir Poraz, who headed the rescue.

Thankfully for future exchanges, all three terrorists were killed.

Yarmur, the only terrorist responsible who had been left alive, was convicted of Wachsman’s murder and jailed.

Whether it was Israel’s firm stance and refusal to negotiate (or that Yassin was released for a completely unrelated reason in 1997) or neither of the above, Hamas waited almost 12 years to try again. When it did, it hit the jackpot.

On June 25, 2006, seven Hamas terrorists, using a tunnel carved under the Gaza-Israel border, attacked an army unit, killing Staff-Seargent Pavel Slutzker and Lieutenant Hanan Barak and kidnapping then-Corporal Gilad Schalit. For five years, Hamas held Schalit prisoner, denying him basic humanitarian rights, including Red Cross access.

Following a controversial populist campaign led by his parents to give in to terrorist demands, the Israeli government approved an agreement to exchange Schalit for over 1,000 dangerous terrorists held in Israeli jails. These included Sharatha and Yamur. Luckily, Yassin was no longer negotiable: In March 2004, the IDF was able to permanently neutralize his evil influence in a targeted killing.

After their success in the Schalit deal, Hamas’s attempts at kidnappings have multiplied exponentially.

Last year alone, the IDF foiled no less that 64 kidnap plans. The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) uncovered an Islamic Jihad cell inside Israel funded by Jenin terrorists, which had a supply of ski masks, adhesive tape, box cutters and handguns, clearly preparing for yet another kidnapping attempt. Hamas operatives from the Gaza Strip were also arrested before they could carry out their plan to run over a soldier and stow his body in the car.

Despite these successes, our luck ran out when on June 12, three teenage yeshiva boys on their way home from school ran into yet another Hamas band of barbarians. At the time of this writing, no one has made any demands, although plenty of jihadi groups were quick to “take credit” for the atrocity.

And so we begin again, a country and her people held hostage by our love of life, the preciousness and irreplaceability of every single person in this country to all of us, our government and our army. Held hostage by our kindness, Jews are easy prey for those who are cruel, those who do not hold human life as the supreme value. People like the Nazis and like Hamas.

Jews are “rachmanim b’nai rachmanim,” compassionate children of compassionate fathers. Our enemies see this as a weakness – and perhaps they are right. In the Schalit deal, this weakness tied our hands, preventing us from refusing to give in to demands that were clearly not in our best interests; demands that set free former kidnappers, enabling them to kidnap and kill once again.

On the other hand, we were able to save the Schalit family the unbearable pain of the Wachsman family.We were able, as a people, to rejoice that Gilad Schalit’s young life had been returned to him. And in that rejoicing lies our strength and our unity, the building blocks on which our nationhood is founded and rests.

It is a very strong foundation, because it comes from the best qualities in humankind: our love, our compassion, our kindness, our charity, our concern for others. This is something the Palestinians under the Hamas will never know, and are thus condemned to lose, condemned to be homeless and nation-less forever, because a nation founded on hatred, butchery, revenge and blood lust is not a nation, but a barbaric horde of savages.

One can only wonder what will happen this time, which of the many scenarios that we have already experienced as a nation we are destined to repeat. We should have no illusions. Whatever we do, we need to be prepared wake up and start all over again, continuing to build despite all the destruction, continuing to love despite all the hatred.

May God bring our boys back to us, and save us from our enemies.


This article was originally published in the Jerusalem Post on 27 June 2014.

5 comments to Our Weakness and Our Strength

  • Janice Goldberg White

    You are so very correct about all that you say. Living in the U.S. and having a son studying at Yeshiva in Jerusalem makes the worrying and anger so much more personal. And, my son sees, every day, that it is NOT the people who hate each other. Thank you for continuing on with your thoughts and knowledge of what is going on in Israel.

    On a lighter note, of course, I am in that group of very much looking forward to your newest book.

    G-d bless you, Naomi and only the best to you.

  • Well said, as usual.

  • Renaud

    What can be the response to kidnapping? Kill the kidnappers, making war or put them in jail did not brought much results.
    But if they know that kidnapping will make them loose one or two roads of the city, by a knesset decision.
    If israelis adjust a financial compensation for those expelled from these two streets (With a better compensation than the one obtained by the jews expelled from arab countries). Knowing that Hamas great heart , always helps the liberated israeli prisoners . They will surely find them a new place to live.
    I am convinced that between loosing home or kidnapping they will choose the example of Sadate.
    He prefered peace to obtain the Sinai back.

  • Michael Fandal

    If key Israelis made an offer to Naomi Ragen that she could not refuse she might take a coffee break from writing and follow in Golda Meir’s footsteps though making her own.
    Even before the kidnapping of the 3 Israeli teens one an American, when I stop for a red traffic light I pray for the IDF, the NYPD(i am a retired Jewish cop) and the recovery of sick children. I added the names of our 3 teens. I encourage all citizens to follow my example especially on shabbos. many observe observant Jews like the rest of New Yorkers. Maybe if this practice spreads even our worst president in history will take notice and get off his green and pull out the stops to slam the door shut on the cowards who prey upon innocents.

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