cover image The Vocabulary of Peace: Life, Culture, and Politics in the Middle East

The Vocabulary of Peace: Life, Culture, and Politics in the Middle East

Shulamith Hareven. Mercury House, $14.95 (240pp) ISBN 978-1-56279-072-1

Hareven (City of Many Days), the first woman admitted to the Academy of the Hebrew Language, has written 15 books ranging from poetry to novels to stories. Her breadth is clearly evident in this cogent, perceptive and very accessible collection of essays, which refocuses the language used to describe Middle Eastern culture and politics. In six thematic subdivisions such as ``Knowledge'' and ``People'' and ``Peace,'' she uses an intriguing mesh of biographical sketches, poetic descriptions of place and meditations on language and philosophy to give real life to abstractions. One important theme is the danger of myth in history and daily existence, myth that leads to hyperbole, false gods and misplaced passion. It's an idea Hareven ponders in her literary musings on ``What Should We Do About Myth?''; in her charged political essay ``Against Charisma'' (as possessed by political leaders); and in her clear-eyed descriptions of Palestinian life in the territories. In the beautiful, eloquent essay ``The Man Who Descended into Inferno,'' about Gideon Hausner, the attorney general of Israel who gave a fair trial to the notorious Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann, Hareven posits that the law is the only practical means to quell violence and hatred. It is this sense of humane rationality that forms the basis for her writings. (May)