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Israel rejects award-winning novel on Arab-Jewish love story


Jerusalem : Israel has disqualified an award- winning novel about an Israeli-Palestinian romance from school curriculum, prompting charges of racism and accusations that the move was aimed at keeping Jews from falling in love with Arabs.

The education ministry said that Israeli author Dorit Rabinyan’s “Gader Haya” (translated as ‘Borderlife’ in English) has been rejected for inclusion in school curriculum.

Among the reasons cited for the disqualification is the need to maintain what was referred to as “the identity and the heritage of students in every sector,” and the belief that “intimate relations between Jews and non-Jews threatens the separate identity,” Israeli newspaper Ha├íretz reported.

The Ministry also expressed concern that “young people of adolescent age don’t have the systemic view that includes considerations involving maintaining the national-ethnic identity of the people and the significance of miscegenation.”

The book published in Hebrew about a year and a half ago tells the story of Liat, an Israeli translator, and Hilmi, a Palestinian artist, who meet and fall in love in New York, until they part ways for her to return to Tel Aviv and him to the West Bank city of Ramallah.

The book was among this year’s winners of the Bernstein Prize for young writers.

A source familiar with the ministry’s approach told the newspaper that in recent months many literature teachers had requested that the book be included in advanced literature classes.

Two senior ministry officials, Eliraz Kraus, who is in charge of society-and-humanity studies, and the acting chair of the pedagogic secretariat, Dalia Fenig, are said to have made the decision to disqualify ‘Borderlife’.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett, from right-wing Bayit HaYehudi (The Jewish Home) party, backed the disqualification. “The minister backs the decision made by the professionals,” his office was quoted as saying.

The head of literature studies at the ministry, Shlomo Herzig, is said to have appealed their decision early this month, but his appeal was denied, the report said.

“The acute problem of Israeli society today is the terrible ignorance and racism that is spreading in it, and not concern over intermarriage,” Herzig wrote.

“The most horrible sin that comes to mind in teaching literature is eliminating all or some work which we don’t favour out of ethical considerations. In such a situation, there is no reason to teach literature at all.”

Fenig in his response is said to have expressed concern that the book would encourage romance between Jews and Arabs.

Commentator Alon Idan wrote in the newspaper that the move was aimed at “protecting the purity of Jewish blood” and reflected “institutionalised race theory”.

Rabinyan’s earlier publications, ‘Our Weddings’ and ‘Am Oved’, are taught in schools.

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