Make your own free website on
  Naomi Ragen

Naomi Ragen
author of ...

The Ghost of Hannah Mendes Jephte's Daughter Sotah (A Woman Under Suspicion) The Sacrifice of Tamar

Click on the Join List button at the bottom of the Home page to join Naomi's mailing list and receive her bi-weekly Jerusalem Post column by email!


Jephte's Daughter Abraham Ha-Levi is a wealthy American businessman and the last male survivor of an important Orthodox Jewish family. He decides it's time he finally honoured his religious and cultural inheritance and so forces his 18-year old daughter - the beautiful and intelligent Batsheva - into an arranged marriage. Her new husband is a devout Torah scholar who lives in Jerusalem. Batsheva finds herself plunged into a new life and a strange land, among people who follow their religious laws to the letter. Then she realizes that her husband's piety is merely a mask for his cruelty. A magnificent book that builds up momentum compellingly.

Author's Comments

I'd been working as a freelance journalist for twenty years, living in Jerusalem with my husband and (at that time) three children, when the idea to write Jephte's Daughter came to me. I had a great deal of knowledge about the Orthodox Jewish world, having been part of it almost all my life, and I'd learned even more since leaving America and moving to Israel, which I did in 1971. For some time, I'd thought that the ultra-Orthodox world, the world of men in black coats and women in wigs, was where I truly belonged spiritually. But the culture shock of being thrown into that environment opened my eyes. There were things of great spiritual beauty there - but also a sinister undercurrent that most people simply chose to ignore. Perhaps I would have as well if not for the shocking tragedy that befell one of my neighbors.

She was a young woman in her early twenties, the daughter of very wealthy, ultra-Orthodox diamond merchants. Her marriage to a brilliant Talmud scholar in Jerusalem was arranged by matchmakers, who demanded and received a huge dowry on behalf of the groom, a dowry which included a house, fully furnished, an annual income, a car, and many other gifts from the bride's father. Several years later, this lovely girl took her daughter, a gorgeous, blonde three-year old, to the top of a Tel-Aviv hotel and committed suicide with the child in her arms.

The shock of this unbelievable double tragedy resonated deep within me for many months, until finally one day I heard someone comment that she must have been crazy. Suddenly, everything crystallized within me and I understood that I had to write a novel that would show how a perfectly normal, lovely, deeply religious woman had been pushed to an extreme few of us will ever know by her husband and the society around her.

That book was Jephte's Daughter.

Readers' Comments

A magnificent book that builds up momentum compellingly. It's so good that it's hard to believe this is a first novel - keep your eyes peeled for the next one!"

(Review, Best magazine, London, England, Sept. 1, 1989)



Write to Naomi Ragen
Write to Naomi Ragen  at:
Copyright 1999 Naomi Ragen
Last modified: January 31, 1999