Kissing cousinsKissing cousins

Arabs and Jews protest ‘book ban’ with a kiss

Video counters Education Ministry’s barring of Israeli-Palestinian love story from a curriculum reading list

Renee Ghert-Zand is a reporter and feature writer for The Times of Israel.

From "Jews & Arabs Kiss" video by Time Out Tel Aviv. (YouTube)
From "Jews & Arabs Kiss" video by Time Out Tel Aviv. (YouTube)

Time Out Tel Aviv responded to the Education Ministry’s barring from a reading list for high schoolers of a novel depicting an Israeli-Palestinian love story with a video showing Jews and Arabs locking lips.

This new video is modeled on the “First Kiss” video released in March 2014, which went viral before people caught on that it was actually an advertisement for a fashion line starring models.

Like the original video, this new clip, titled, “Jews & Arabs Kiss,” shows ostensible strangers pairing up into couples for a kiss. It’s awkward and romantic, but in this case the creators aim to sell coexistence rather than clothing.

“The best answer to another week of bloodshed, racism, censorship and existential angst is an opening of the heart to a photography project that defies sectors and boundaries,” wrote Time Out Tel Aviv in its introduction to the video.

The magazine referred not only to the blocking of “Gader Haya” (translated as “Borderlife” in English) by Israeli author Dorit Rabinyan from the national high school curriculum, but also to last Friday’s murderous attack by an alleged Israeli Arab gunman on Dizengoff Street and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s subsequent speech, which criticized anti-Israel incitement by Israel’s Arab citizens and was itself criticized for its hostility to the Arab commumity.

Israel’s attorney general announced on Monday that he will probe the Education Ministry’s decision to disqualify the book. In the meantime, the announcement of the book’s barring led to an exceptionally high demand at bookstores throughout the country, and to a subsequent concession by the ministry that the book can be taught in schools where teachers wish to do so.

According to Time Out Tel Aviv, the pairs appearing in the video are either couples, friends or total strangers. In some cases the pairs are the same sex, and in others they are not.

The magazine called the kissers “brave,” saying many of the people approached had refused to participate in the project given the charged climate and touchy subject.

Each of the participants provided an explanation about why they decided to pucker up for the camera.

“The experience was embarrassing and interesting. The political situation is shit. If only our life was beautiful here and there were more lovers and fewer haters,” said Stav Wexler, 23, who was paired up with her work friend Kais Tibi, 30, an economics student originally from the Palestinian village of Taybeh.

Producer and editor Michal Kfir, 35, kissed with business administration student Bassem Hassan. Both live in Tel Aviv.

“I didn’t know my kissing partner before. We went to buy vodka in the five minutes we had before the filming to calm us down, but it didn’t help. Bassem, the man I kissed, is amazing. To kiss with a stranger is a very intense experience. Now all that’s left is to see what will happen,” Kfir said.

Shir Sternberg expressed his sentiments bluntly. “[Education Minister] Naftali Bennett isn’t normal. I’ll miscegenate with whomever I want,” he said.

The video was posted on various social media platforms, including Facebook, where it racked up 69,000 views from Thursday morning to afternoon.

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