Word of the Day / Shalom Al Yisrael

This Hebrew phrase comes from Psalms and is more a figure of speech than an actual benediction for peace.

Let’s say you’re talking to a taxi driver who knows the best way to run the country (as all Israeli taxi drivers do; if you don’t believe me, just ask them). The solution to the crisis of the day is, of course, very simple: Just do this, that and the other, and shalom al Yisrael.

Lest you think your driver has just come up with the shortest peace accord on record, rest assured he is using the phrase “peace be upon Israel” as a figure of speech, the way Americans might say “and there you go” or “that’s that” to signal finality, while the British sometimes use “and Bob’s your uncle” for the same purpose. The Hebrew phrase, which appears in Psalms 128:6 and is also the name of an ancient synagogue in Jericho, indicates that the speaker has resolved the issue to his satisfaction and is wiping his hands of the matter.

Perhaps because peace seems so distant and almost unimaginable, the use of this phrase may be seen as reflecting the widespread perception that peace is not so much a launching point for a new kind of relationship with Israel’s neighbors as it is simply an end point – whether to a rhetorical argument or to an extended state of conflict.