Jewish-Arab love story can still be taught in schools as part of open curriculum

“The greatest danger in your eyes is displaying a rounded character of an Arab, not terrorists, but of multi-ambitions and weaknesses, in short a man, a human,” books editor tells education c'tee.

Gymnasia Rehavia is the country’s second modern high school, built on Keren Kayemeth Street in 1928 (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Gymnasia Rehavia is the country’s second modern high school, built on Keren Kayemeth Street in 1928
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
We will not apologize for the struggle against assimilation – it is a strategic threat, MK Ya’acov Margi (Shas) said on Wednesday.
He made these remarks at the opening of the Education, Sports and Culture Committee, which he chairs, regarding the Education Ministry decision to remove Dorit Rabinyan’s novel Borderlife, a love story chronicling the relationship between an Israeli woman and a Palestinian man, from the national high school curriculum.
Dalia Fenig, acting chairwoman of the Pedagogical Secretariat in the Education Ministry, addressed the committee and explained the reasoning behind removing the book.
Until last year, 100 percent of the pedagogic curriculum was predetermined by her office, she said. Today, however, only 70% of the curriculum is preset while the additional 30% of the curriculum is “open for the student to decide in a dialogue with the teacher.”
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.
Fenig noted that she had received extensive criticism and even dangerous threats following the decision to remove the book.
Yuval Shimoni, the novel’s editor, also addressed the committee.
“The greatest danger, in your eyes, is displaying a rounded character of an Arab, not a terrorist, but [a person with] many ambitions and weaknesses – in short a man, a human,” he said.
“True, it might confuse youth, especially when we are white as snow and they are jet black. So should we only read the Bible? The writers of the Bible did not bother to purify their heroes,” he said.
Following these testimonies, MKs from across the political spectrum responded, many critical of the decision.
MK Yousef Jabareen (Joint List) said, “The feeling is that censorship has returned and the censor is a political censorship.”
He said that members of Bennett’s Bayit Yehudi party had recently stated that “there is no Palestinian people.”
“So now I understand that you cannot learn about a love story with a Palestinian guy, because there is no such thing, and so books like this should not be approved,” he quipped.
MK Merav Ben-Ari (Kulanu) said that she was against the Education Ministry’s decision, but did not believe this was part of a conspiracy or of censorship. She also criticized the press for blowing the incident out of proportion.
“Israel is a stable democracy and we are allowed to argue over the reading list. Does anyone really believe that the girls of Israel will run to Arab villages after reading this book? There is no real criticism but just an attempt to turn every decision of the government into an illegitimate one,” she said.