Middle East

Israeli-Palestinian love story becomes a bestseller

A file picture taken on December 31, 2015, shows Israeli author Dorit Rabinyan posing with her Hebrew-language novel titled "Gader Haya" Image copyright AFP
Image caption Many bookstores have sold out of Dorit Rabinyan's Borderlife, her agent says

A love story between an Israeli Jew and a Palestinian Muslim has topped the list of bestsellers after Israel's education ministry refused to allow the book on to the school curriculum.

Officials feared Borderlife by Dorit Rabinyan could encourage relationships between Jews and Arabs.

But the move sparked a backlash and a surge in sales.

Publication abroad is also being sped up and translations are being discussed for Hungary, Spain and Brazil.

Ms Rabinyan's agent said more than 5,000 copies of the book had been sold in a week, a large number in Israel's small market, and many stores had sold out.

"I think this whole march to bookstores is a demonstration," Ms Rabinyan told AFP. "It is not only my fans that buy Borderlife, it is the fans of Israeli democracy.

"By buying my novel they reconfirm their trust and belief in Israel's liberalism, in Israel's freedom of choice and speech," she said.

Hear Dorit Rabinyan explain the block

World diplomacy's Gordian knot

Published in 2014, Borderlife is a semi-autobiographical story of an Israeli woman who falls in love with a Palestinian artist in New York. But the pair split up as she returns to Israel and he to the West Bank.

Teachers asked to include the book in the high school curriculum, but senior education ministry officials blocked the move.

A document from a debate in Israel's parliament said "intimate relations between Jews and non-Jews threatens the separate identity," reports said.

Relationships between Israeli Jews and Palestinians are rare and are disapproved of by large sections of both societies.

But on Thursday the education ministry appeared to soften its stance, saying the book had not been "disqualified" but merely "not included" in the high school programme.

Pupils could study the book but it would not be included in the final exam, it said.

Image copyright AP
Image caption "Fans of Israeli democracy" are buying the book, the author says

However, the apparent block has angered cultural figures and left-wing sections of Israeli society.

The magazine Time Out responded by publishing a video showing Arabs and Jews kissing to break what they called a taboo in Israeli society.

There has long been friction between the right-wing government of Benjamin Netanyahu and cultural figures.

In June, Education Minister Naftali Bennett removed state funding from a play that he said showed a Palestinian attacker in a sympathetic light.

And in November the country's most famous living author Amos Oz said he would not attend events at Israeli embassies around the world in protest at government policies.