Report: Israeli-Arab love story becomes best-seller after school ban decision

Over 5,000 copies have sold in the country since the ministry made its announcement, a large number for Israel's relatively small market.

January 9, 2016 01:06
2 minute read.

Books. (photo credit: HANAN COHEN)

A love-story chronicling the relationship between an Israeli Jew and a Palestinian Muslim has become a best-seller after the Education Ministry announced earlier this week that the book would be barred from the national high school curriculum, the BBC reported Friday.

Dorit Rabinyan’s novel Borderlife was removed Wednesday from the list of reading material for students studying for their matriculation exams in order to preserve “the identity and the legacy of students from all sectors.”

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“The book could incite hatred and cause emotional storms (in the classroom),” Dalia Fenig, who headed the ministry committee that decides which literary works are on the curriculum, told Army Radio.

She said the decision to remove the book from the required reading list was not taken lightly and followed extensive consultations with education professionals. She stated that Education Minister Naftali Bennett was not involved in the decision.

“We decided that, because this is a sensitive time and because this is a very contemporary piece, it is not suitable to study this as a requirement. In conversations with teachers, there were fears that it could cause some harm among a portion of students,” she explained to the committee.

She added that there are other works that deal with the relationship between Jews and Arabs that were not removed from the required curriculum, and that if students want to read Rabinyan’s book, they still can as part of the “open” curriculum.
Jews and Arabs kiss

Over 5,000 copies have sold in the country since the ministry made its announcement, a large number from Israel's relatively small market, Rabinyan's agent told the BBC.

The book's popularity has also caught the attention of readers abroad, with translations being discussed for Hungarry, Spain and Brazil, the BBC added.

"I think this whole march to bookstores is a demonstration," Rabinyan told AFP in an interview following the ministry's decision. "It is not only my fans that buy Borderlife, it is the fans of Israeli democracy.

"By buying my novel they reconfirm their trust and belief in Israel's liberalism, in Israel's freedom of choice and speech," she said.

Borderlife, published in 2014, tells the semi-autobiographical story of an Israeli Jewish woman and a Palestinian Muslim man who fall in love in New York, yet are torn apart when she returns to Israel and he to the West Bank, the BBC added.

In the wake of the ministry's decision, the Tel Aviv magazine TimeOut produced a video of  Arabs and Jews kissing each other.

"We will continue to believe that people are first human beings, before the religion or nationality that was either chosen by them or their ancestors," the TimeOut editors wrote.

"Love is sometimes viewed as superficial, but this is a mistake, there is no feeling more complex and complicating. In a complex society, it is important for us to complicate in the best way that we know how," the editors added.  

Six Jewish-Arab couples, gay and straight, male and female, and some who never met took part in the video.

Israeli Jewish and Palestinian relationships are rare in Israel, disapproved largely by both societies.

Lidar Grave-Lazi and Gali Markowitz-Slotker contributed to this article.

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