Education Ministry under fire for excluding novel about Jewish-Arab love story

Meretz leader Gal-on slams Bennett for rejecting the book "because it encourages assimilation."

Naftali Bennett (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Naftali Bennett
Sales spiked Thursday of Dorit Rabinyan’s novel Borderlife, a love story that chronicles the relationship between an Israeli woman and a Palestinian man, following the Education Ministry’s ruling to remove it from the national high school curriculum.
The ministry said that the book 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.”
“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 IArmy Radio.
After a report of the book ban was published in Haaretz, the move was criticized by politicians as censorship by the Education Ministry.
The book was removed from the list despite the fact that the committee made up of academics and education professionals that puts together the list recommended including the novel for advanced literature students, based on the opinions of many teachers.
Rabinyan responded to the controversial decision that sparked a media frenzy in Israel, telling The Jerusalem Post’s sister publication Maariv that “it is none of my business. My craft is to write books and hope that a day will come when it has readers. After it comes out, it’s out of my hands.”
Rabinyan said her award-winning book, whose love story plot line takes place in New York, had tried to highlight the similarities and differences between the main protagonists, observing the conflict from afar.
“The two heroes spend a winter overseas and manage to get to know each other in great detail, something that could not happen on the disputed land,” Rabinyan told Israel Radio. “Perhaps their ability to surmount the obstacles of the Middle East conflict is what threatens the Education Ministry.”
Several MKs expressed outrage at the removal. Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg said that she is calling for a discussion of the issue in the Knesset Education Committee.
“Censorship has been in place here for a while. Now it is becoming racist censorship that apparently has a goal of raising a racist and close-minded generation of kids that doesn’t see Arabs as people, or doesn’t see them at all,” she said.
Meretz chairwoman Zehava Gal-On called on her Facebook page for a demonstration against the move outside the Education Ministry offices in Tel Aviv.
“We will demonstrate tomorrow outside the Education Ministry,” she wrote on Wednesday.
Gal-on attacked Education Minister Naftali Bennett (Bayit Yehudi) for the rejection, saying “Bennett’s commissars rejected an excellent novel that was recommended by the professional committee for literature studies because it tells of a romance between a Jewish girl and an Arab and encourages assimilation.”
Oriana Inbar, a Hebrew literature teacher at a Tel Aviv high school, said the book’s exclusion was “a disgrace” and added that she would encourage her pupils to read it.
“I hope the public outcry will prompt the education ministry to change its mind, I will tell my pupils about it and I am certain that they will run to buy the book,” she told Israel Radio.