Shalom / Salaam / Shalem: New Beginnings, Ancient Values

The Abraham Accord, brokered by the US in August, promises normalization between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, a country with which many of us may not have been familiar before we heard the news. The breakthrough agreement can be seen as an important step in Israel’s striving to be accepted in “the neighborhood,” the Middle East. It’s also an excellent opportunity to reflect on the myriad meanings each of us may find in these developments.

A UBIQUITOUS WORD

PURSUING PEACE

Since its founding, Israel has appealed to the surrounding countries to work together for a better future. The UAE is now the first Arab country that does not border Israel to announce it will normalize ties.

What is the value of peace between countries? Between people?

We are commanded to actively pursue shalom (peace) and tzedek (justice). How can we do that? How do you try to do that?

The most common greeting in the Hebrew language, “shalom,” has many layered meanings. While many people know shalom as a catch-all for hello, goodbye, and peace, its shoresh, or root, of shin-lamed-mem (שלם) conveys additional meanings in the context of the Abraham Accord. Drawing on this root, shalom interconnects the practice of tashlum, in a dual sense of payment and appreciation, as well as shalem that encompasses wholeness among body, mind, and a state of being.

After the accord was unveiled, Israeli and Emirati businesspeople expressed hope for huge trade deals between the two countries, and airlines filed for permits to fly nonstop between Tel Aviv and Abu Dhabi. As they advance the high-minded ideal of shalom, (שָׁלוֹם, peace), these new ties will revolve around tashlumim (תַּשְׁלוּמִים, payments) between the parties who will join together as partners, greeting each other with shalom (and salaam, in Arabic), as they partake of a whole (shalem, שָׁלֵם) relationship between their countries and their peoples.

If things proceed as planned, it’s only a matter of time before Israelis and Emiratis will be able to travel back and forth, engage in trade and tourism, and—remarkably, naturally—greet each other as friends. We can almost hear the intonations of salaam in Tel Aviv and shalom in Abu Dhabi.

SUPPORTING MATERIALS

This collection of background articles and opinion writing examines the significance of the Israel-UAE deal from multiple perspectives. We hope you’ll explore more than one, and choose from these questions (or craft your own!) to engage your learners.

 

Surprise!

  • Many people were surprised by the announcement of the Abraham Accord, and may even need to refer to a map to see where the UAE is located. How do we think about issues and places that we haven’t considered in the past? 


 “Winners” and “Losers”

  • Who “wins” from this announcement? Who “loses” from this?
  • Some say Israeli-Emirati ties come instead of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
    • Can you think of an approach that would advance Palestinian aspirations while also deepening Israel’s acceptance in the region?


Leaders, Followers, and Legacy

  • What is the role of leaders in achieving peace? What is the role of the public?
  • How does legacy impact the work of a leader?
  • What do you hope your legacy will be? 

Perspectives

תחנות יסוד קשורות בתחום החינוך לישראל

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