Those who follow my work are probably familiar with the idea that there is no modern Hebrew word for peace (meaning harmony and reconciliation). The Hebrew Word Shalom (שלום) is interpreted in modern Hebrew as ‘security for the Jews.’ In Israel the reference to ‘shalom negotiation’ is construed as a premeditated set of conditions that guarantees ‘security’ for Jewish Israelis by means of: secure borders, disarmament of the Arabs, an American commitment to supplying arms to Israel, economic expansion and so on.
It would be unreasonable to expect a culture that lacks a lucid notion of peace and reconciliation to lead the region towards harmony and human brotherhood. The truth of the matter is that even in the delusional heydays of the Oslo Accord, when some were foolish enough to believe that peace was about to prevail, the so-called peace enthusiasts amongst the Israeli decision makers (Shimon Peres & co) advocated the phantasy of a “New Middle East,’ a vision of a regional new order: an economic cooperation with the Jewish State at its very centre. The ‘dream’ of a ‘new Middle East’ entailed a coalition of so called ‘democratic states’ defying ‘Khomeinism’ by means of Western orientation and hard capitalism. Though the globalist agenda was clear to Shimon Peres, the one ingredient he managed to skip was the Palestinians and their prospects of returning to their land, orchards, fields, villages and cities.
Shalom in its contemporary Hebrew meaning, is a judeo-centric concept that is blind to otherness.
The recent conflict in occupied Palestine (especially the clashes in Israeli/Palestinian mixed cities) brings to light another crucial concept that has been lost in translation into modern Hebrew.
Often enough we hear from Israelis officials and Hasbara spokespersons about ‘Israeli/Arab coexistence.’ Yet, bizarrely enough, there is no Hebrew word for coexistence. While the English concept of coexistence refers to an harmonious and peaceful existence of two entities or more, the Hebrew word for coexistence is du ki-yum (דו קיום ). Du ki-yum literally translates as twofold – existence, it refers to two entities that live side by side. Du ki-yum sustains the differentiation and particularity of its elements. In du ki-yum the elements stay apart, separated or even segregated. The notion of du ki-yum practically sustains the binary distinction between the ‘Jew’ and the ‘Goy.’ While coexistence is a synonym for harmony, togetherness and assimilation, du ki-yum, defies the possibility of human brotherhood. It points at success in ‘conflict management,’ presenting a prospect of living ‘alongside’ rather than ‘together’.
I guess that at this point no one will be surprised to find out that there is no word in Hebrew for harmony either. The first Israelis, who worked day and night to revive their biblical language and rename every possible Latin and Greek concept, didn’t bother to find a Hebrew word for harmony. When Israelis refer to harmony they deploy the Latin word harmonia (הרמוניה).
When we attempt to delve into the prospect of peace in the region, we may have to accept that a culture lacking notions of peace, harmony and coexistence may not be able to lead the region towards harmonious and peaceful coexistence. If peace ever prevails between the river and the sea, it is because Israel has surrendered to accepting its meaning.