JERUSALEM – How have Tel Aviv’s young liberals responded to a decision by Israel’s conservative, right-wing education minister to ban from the official reading list a novel about forbidden love between an Israeli Jew and a Palestinian Muslim?
They've made a video of Israelis and Palestinians kissing each other.
Published online Thursday morning by the magazine TimeOut Tel Aviv, the video shows six young couples – male, female, straight and gay – kissing for the first time. Some of the pairs were already friends, and others had never met before. (It’s a take on the Tatia Pilieva 2014 project First Kiss)
Ironically, its almost impossible to tell who is Israeli and who is Palestinian in the video.
Within hours the video garnered more than 100,000 views and some 5,500 shares, but by evening it had been removed from social networking site Facebook, possibly after some users complained. The magazine said in a statement that it did not know why Facebook had deleted the post and that it was in the process of checking.
TimeOut's deputy editor Nof Nathansohn said the video had received mixed reviews, with positive comments on Time Out Tel Aviv's Facebook page but also some expressing shock at confronting such a taboo subject in this way.
The provocative clip was made in response to an Israeli Education Ministry decision to disqualify Dorit Rabinyan’s book “Borderline” from a list of recommended reading for an advanced high school literature course. Yet to be released in English, "Borderline" is the story of an Israeli Jewish woman and a Palestinian Muslim man who meet in New York, fall in love and then part ways. She returns to Tel Aviv and he to Ramallah.
The Education Ministry said it banned the book from its literature list to maintain the “identity and heritage of students in every sector.” Ministry officials were worried that the “intimate relations between Jews and non-Jews threatens the separate identity,” reported Israeli daily Haaretz, which broke the story a week ago.
“When the story came out last Thursday we were already working on another big project. But during our editorial meeting this week we decided that we needed to take action against this decision. We immediately started working on the video," said Nathansohn.
Some of Israel’s more liberal lawmakers also criticized the ban, calling it racist and a gross attempt at censorship.
“Censorship started long ago. Now it aims to preserve the purity of blood,” wrote Knesset member Tamar Zandberg on Twitter.
Some high school teachers said they would use the book in class regardless, and bookstores countrywide reported a sudden increase in sales of "Borderline."
Education Minister Naftali Bennett, head of the ultra-nationalist Jewish Home party, responded that he strongly supported the ban mostly because the book criticizes Israeli soldiers, presenting them as war criminals.
But, in an interview with Israel’s Channel 2 News, Bennett said: “Do we really need a book that talks about the romance between a Palestinian prisoner and a Jewish woman?” Bennett admitted that he had not yet read the book.
This post has been updated.