Demand for "Borderlife" Surges in Israel After Novel Is Banned From Schools

Some stores sold out of Dorit Rabinyan’s book on Thursday, with one store saying high school principals were buying the novel for their schools.

Copy of "Borderlife," by Dorit Rabinyan, at Israeli book store.
Moti Milrod

After reading all about the book “Borderlife” in their newspapers this week, Israelis flocked to bookstores to pick up a copy of Dorit Rabinyan’s novel on Thursday.

The book found itself at the center of a storm after the Education Ministry rejected it from the high school curriculum, citing fears that it threatens “Jewish identity.”

Education Minister Naftali Bennett said that while he wasn’t involved in the decision to ban the book, he fully supported the decision. “This has nothing to do with censorship,” he said. “Whoever wants to read the book can buy it” – which is exactly what Israelis have been doing.

On Thursday morning, the country’s bookstore chains and independent book retailers were reporting increased demand for the novel, which depicts a love story between an Israeli woman and a Palestinian man.

The publisher, Am Oved, reported that hundreds of copies of the book had been sold by the afternoon – four times the previous sales rate for an entire month. The publisher has ordered a new print run and is preparing to ship out the copies in stock in its warehouse.

The country’s two major booksellers, Tzomet Sfarim and Steimatzky, reported high demand for “Borderlife” at some of their locations. One Steimatzky store reported that school principals were seeking to buy the book for their schools.

During the day on Thursday, Tzomet Sfarim reported at least a 50 percent spike in sales, and predicted that its entire stock of the book could be gone by day’s end.

Independent booksellers have also experienced high demand for “Borderlife.” Tel Aviv’s Migdalor bookstore, for example, said it had sold all its copies of the novel, while Tola’at Sfarim in Tel Aviv ordered additional copies after also selling out.

A customer at a Steimatzky store in Gedera reported a line of patrons at the cash register queuing to buy Rabinyan’s book, while bookstores in Jerusalem and the Tel Aviv suburb of Ramat Hasharon reported selling out of “Borderlife.”

By Thursday afternoon, one Steimatzky branch in Tel Aviv had sold eight of its 10 copies, and a staff member at the store reported that when it opened on Thursday, customers were already calling to reserve copies of the book – a situation also seen at other branches.

“Borderlife” was published in May 2014 at a retail price of 88 shekels ($22.50). The country’s book pricing law prohibits a discount being offered on new books for almost 18 months: Although this time has now elapsed, Rabinyan’s book is still being sold at full price at some book retailers.