Israel: Officials ban book on Jewish-Arab romance

11 January 2016

rabinyan borderlifeOfficials in Israel’s education ministry banned Dorit Rabinyan’s ‘Gader Haya’ (Borderlife) book from being taught in schools because the plot involving a mixed romantic relationship between an Israeli and Palestinian is perceived as “threatening”, newspaper The Telegraph reported.

Ministry of Education officials who banned the book on 30 December 2015 said that “intimate relationships between Jews and non-Jews, and certainly the option of formalising them through marriage and having a family – even if it doesn’t come to fruition in the story – is perceived by large segments of society as a threat to separate identity”.

Further, Dalia Fenig, the head of the committee that determines which works are taught in schools said that the book could “incite hatred and cause emotional storms” in the classroom.

The decision has led to backlash from Israel’s literary and cultural worlds, politicians characterising this as censorship, and a surge in book sales. Rabinyan’s agent said that more than 5,000 copies of the book have been sold in a week – a large number for the country’s market – and that the ebook shot to the top of the fiction chart. Rights to the book and translations of it in other countries, such as the US and France, are also being sped up, reported The Guardian.

The BBC reported that the ministry has since “softened” its stance on the book and said the book was merely “not included” in the curriculum and that students could study the book, but that it would not be part of final exams.

The book, Rabinyan’s third novel, won Israel’s 2015 Bernstein Prize awarded to Israeli writers under the age of 50 and was recommended to be added to the high school curriculum by a committee of academics.

‘Borderlife’ tells the story of Liat, an Israeli translator, and Hilmi, a Palestinian artist, who meet in New York City and fall in love, but then travel back to their respective homes in Tel Aviv and Ramallah.


» BBC – 8 January 2016:
Israeli-Palestinian love story becomes a bestseller

» The Guardian – 8 January 2016:
Israeli-Palestinian love story omitted from curriculum tops bestseller list

» The Telegraph– 31 December 2015:
Officials band book depicting love story between Israeli and Palestinian from Israeli classrooms

» The Jerusalem Post – 31 December 2015:
Education Ministry under fire for excluding novel about Jewish-Arab love story

Related information

» – 28 May 2014:
Israel: Supreme Court book ban a harsh blow to artistic freedom of expression

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