Romeo and Juliet ends with the tragic deaths of star-crossed lovers, bringing reconcilliation between the Montagues and Capulets. In Palestinian schools however, the literary classic has driven a wedge between Gaza and the West Bank when it comes to curriculum.
The high school curriculum, drawn up by the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, has drawn protests by teachers from Gaza, insisting that students in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip will be studying King Lear, rather than Romeo and Juliet.
Teachers in the conservative, enclosed Gaza Strip have argued that the tragic story of young love is unsuitable for high schoolers, saying the story glamorizes suicide and encourages teenagers to disobey their parents. Teachers also worried that students might download one of the film adaptations of the play and view the "immoral" love scenes.
In addition to disobeying parents, the play could also be read as encouraging young people to oppose marriages arranged by their families, still practiced in some segments of Palestinian society.
Suicide - regarded by many Muslims as a serious sin - has historically been low in Gaza, despite a 10-year economic siege and three major Israeli military assaults. But human rights groups have reported that 16 confirmed suicide cases in the last three years in Gaza may indicate a sharp increase among young people, who face some of the highest unemployment rates in the world.
However, an adviser to the Minister of Education in Ramallah, Ehab Shukri, disagreed that there was any religious or cultural conflict in studying Romeo and Juliet, saying "there are many love stories in Arab culture which deal with this experience."
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