by Rosa Lia, for the Palestine-Israel Journal

Here is a list of terms taken from different cultures and languages (English, Hebrew, Arabic, Sanskrit and Bantu) that all form part of the quest for that one elusive word: peace.

Ahimsa: A Sanskrit term meaning no harm or no injury. It’s one of the cardinal virtues of Budhism, Janism and Hinduism. It stems from the belief that every living being has a spark of the divine and so to hurt another is to hurt yourself.

Building: As in building a better society, not fighting for one.

Capacity: Not only of institutions, but the skills and experiences of all individuals.

Choice: “Choose life, that you may live!” Deuteronomy.

Creative: Finding new solutions to old problems.

Dialogue: sharing perspectives without trying to convince the other you’re more right. Connecting through feelings, beliefs, ideas, and experiences.

Equality: “If you deny any affinity with another person or kind of person, if you declare it to be wholly different from yourself—as men have done to women, and class has done to class, and nation has done to nation—you may hate it, or deify it; but in either case you have denied its spiritual equality, and its human reality. You have made it into a thing, to which the only possible relationship is a power relationship. And thus you have fatally impoverished your own reality.” — Ursula LeGuin.

Human: Comes in many shapes, sizes and colors, and can be found all over the world with different gods and languages. Bleeds red.

Kiyum mishutaf: Hebrew for shared or common existence. This goes a step further than co-existence which is side by side, to something that truly means together.

Local: Where the change comes from.

Loud: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” — Martin Luther King Jr.

Listening: “Listening is being able to be changed by the other person.” –Alan Alda.

Pikuach Nefesh: A Jewish religious law prioritizing the preservation of life over almost any other command.

Possible: “It always seems impossible until it is done.” — Nelson Mandela.

Salaam: Arabic meaning peace, safety, wholeness. A standard Arabic greeting is as-salamu alaykum to which the response is, wa-alaykum as-salam “and upon you be peace.” In Islam, God has 99 names. Al Salaam is one of them.

Satyagraha: ASanskrit word that translates as insistence on truth, truth force or soul force. Part of the philosophy of nonviolent resistance developed by Mahatma Gandhi.

Shalom: A greeting meaning peace, prosperity, completeness, and welfare. Other phrases include: shalom aleichem “may you be well,” and the question, Ma sh’lom’cha? (to a male) Ma sh’lomech? (to a female) which means “How are you?” According to the Talmud, “The entire Torah is for the sake of the ways of shalom”. Shares roots with the Arabic word Salaam.

al Somood: Steadfastness, rootedness – a nonviolent idea of being attached to the land like olive trees. Differs to resistance, which can imply attack.

Sulha: Traditional Arabic conflict resolution, predating Islam. It is governed by collectivism, emotional spontaneity, shared cultural values and community interest. Success is measured by durable relationships rather than allocation of resources.

Transformation: Changing existing patterns of behavior, changing the structures that ingrain them.

Ubuntu: Translates as “humanness” but is best described through this anecdote: An anthropologist suggested a game to children in a South African tribe. He placed a basket full of fruit under a tree and said, “The one who gets there first wins the fruits.” He then said, “Run!” They all linked hands and ran together. Reaching the tree, they sat together and shared the fruit. The anthropologist asked, “Why? The person who won could have had all the fruits!” They said: “UBUNTU, how can one of us be happy if all the other ones are sad?”