by Elise Coop­er

The Dev­il in Jerusalem is a ter­ri­fy­ing thriller, but even more upset­ting is that this sto­ry was based on a true event. It explores the hor­rif­ic issues of abuse, both emo­tion­al and phys­i­cal, inflict­ed onto cult fol­low­ers. Based upon a true event from the doc­u­ments of a well-known Israeli court case, the author fic­tion­al­izes it to add depth to the plot. This sto­ry cen­ters around an ultra-Ortho­dox self-pro­claimed reli­gious leader and his acolytes who abuse young chil­dren phys­i­cal­ly and abuse their moth­ers emotionally.

Elise Coop­er: Why did you decide to write such an intense storyline?

Nao­mi Ragen: I am try­ing to save people’s lives. These preda­tors use peo­ple who are seek­ing holi­ness and make them vic­tims. Here in Israel there are end­less sto­ries of peo­ple con­sid­ered holy men who turned out to be sex­u­al­ly exploit­ing women. 

EC: Do you see this as a con­dem­na­tion of the ultra-Orthodox?

NR: Absolute­ly not. I am Ortho­dox. This is not about the ultra-Ortho­dox com­mu­ni­ty; it is about psy­chopaths who hap­pen to be a part of the Jew­ish world. They use reli­gion to manip­u­late people’s vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty when seek­ing spir­i­tu­al­i­ty. It is more a book about cults in which the leader is looked up to and can do no wrong in the eyes of their fol­low­ers. I hope I brought out in the book the dif­fer­ence between a cult and a true reli­gious expe­ri­ence. The cult lead­ers twist and turn, using reli­gion for their own per­son­al benefit. 

EC: What inspired this story?

NR: I read the doc­u­ments of a true court case. This sadis­tic cult abused chil­dren, one with severe burns. This sup­posed mys­ti­cal holy man preyed on an Amer­i­can fam­i­ly: the moth­er involved was a young, intel­li­gent woman. I call this book a work of fic­tion inspired by true events. To get the full extent of the hor­ror of what hap­pened I need­ed to not white­wash the true details. In the acknowl­edge­ment sec­tion of the book I talk about how it was based on the court transcripts.

EC: Why do you write these types of books?

NR: Books I write brings up truths.” We need to look at what is under­neath the car­pet in order to grow, become a bet­ter Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty; thus, a bet­ter reli­gious soci­ety. When my first book came out two decades ago it was a call-out regard­ing domes­tic abuse with­in the Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty. At that time, I was told I was defam­ing them; now, twen­ty years lat­er, there are shel­ters for Ortho­dox Jew­ish women, guide­lines for rab­bis on how to han­dle abuse, and women who no longer are trapped by a code of silence. I hope what all my books have done is bring peo­ple to dis­cuss impor­tant top­ics they read and share their opinions. 

EC: What do you want the read­ers to get out of this book?

NR: I want peo­ple to become aware of the dan­gers. Any­one can become a cult mem­ber, espe­cial­ly those who are high­ly intel­li­gent, ide­al­is­tic, and search for some­thing. They are usu­al­ly vul­ner­a­ble at that time in their life. 

Elise Coop­er lives in Los Ange­les and has writ­ten numer­ous nation­al secu­ri­ty arti­cles sup­port­ing Israel. She writes book reviews and Q&As for many dif­fer­ent out­lets, includ­ing the Mil­i­tary Press.

Relat­ed Content:

Elise Coop­er lives in Los Ange­les and has writ­ten numer­ous nation­al secu­ri­ty arti­cles sup­port­ing Israel. She writes book reviews and Q and A’s for many dif­fer­ent out­lets includ­ing the Mil­i­tary Press. She has had the plea­sure to inter­view best­selling authors from many dif­fer­ent genres.