Several years ago I had an epiphany while watching on TV the closing ceremonies after a meeting at Camp David. The late Yasir Arafat had just been introduced by President Bill Clinton. Arafats speech was initially broadcast in Arabic, before the translators voice came in. I speak a little Arabic so I listened attentively. When Arafat started talking about his organization, known in English as the Palestine Liberation Organization, I distinctly heard him say the Arabic word Philistine several times.
I was stunned. Suddenly it all made sense. All the Bible stories about the Hebrew people fighting the Philistines, including David and Goliath, were background for the current struggles between Palestine and Israel. It is merely a matter of saying the word in English, or saying it in Arabic. It refers to the same people. The Philistines or Palestinians have been fighting with the Hebrew people for thousands of years, not just since 1946.
So when Newt Gingrich made a pitch for the Jewish vote last month by saying that Palestine was an artificial state, he was way off; it has existed for millennia. And when people couch the troubles in the Holy Land as a conflict between Muslims and Jews, they are also off the mark. The conflict had existed for centuries before the Prophet Mohammed was born; peace be upon him. When the conflict started, there were no Muslims.
Maybe if we understood that the conflict is over land not religion we might find a solution. So there is hope for peace in the Holy Land, the key to peace in the Middle East.
For me the revelation underlined the historic importance of the Hebrew Scriptures, and the value in studying foreign languages. In Hebrew the word for Peace is Shalom. In Arabic it is Salaam.