"The Peace War" – The Semantic Relationship Between the Terms 'War' and 'Peace' in School Anthologies


  • Oshri Zighelboim


semantic relationships, school anthologies, war and peace


This study deals in the semantic-cognitive analysis of the terms war and peace in school anthologies across different sectors of education. These terms reflect the battle between the various stakeholders who bestow them with the meanings that they perceive as important and use them to educate students – in line with their perceptions and ideologies.

The texts analyzed in this study were all taken from school anthologies that were published in different times, from the establishment of the State of Israel until today. They are used for fifth and sixth grade students in three different sectors of the Jewish education system sector in Israel: state-secular, state-religious, and ultra-orthodox (Haredi) education. Additional texts analyzed were taken from the reading lists of anthroposophical schools who do not have school anthologies. The corpus was analyzed from three aspects: a semantic-synchronic investigation between all anthologies that were published at a certain period of time; a semantic-diachronic investigation that focused on changes made to newer editions of the same anthology; and a comparative analysis between the anthologies of the different sectors of education.

A semantic-cognitive analysis of the terms war and peace exposes a range of meanings and relationships between the two, most often perceived as contradictory. While war is a more linguistical clear-cut term, with arguments made for or against it, peace is a more ambiguous and hard-to-define term. The fact that the Hebrew word shalom [peace] is referentially precarious, and the lack of clear semantic boundaries between the two, render the term peace an important subject of research.

The findings show a range of relationships between the two terms: war as a prerequisite for peace; a connection between war and religion, which provides the term war with a positive connotation; dealing with negative peace by focusing on the objection to war rather than on the values of peace itself; characterizing peace through war-related terms; emphasizing the prices paid and sacrifices made in an attempt to achieve peace; and the connection between the field of peace and the field of war. In the relationship between these two, it is the field of war that takes over the field of peace. Moreover, the erosion of the basic conflict between the two fields is a result of the Hebrew word shalom [peace] being referentially precarious, which projects onto the perception of war and peace within Israeli society.