Star of David
The Shield of David consists of two triangles interlocking to form a star. This leads some to translate Magen David as the Star of David, although the word Magen means shield.
The triangle has had a long history among men. It represents the most basic triage, i.e., the human family consisting of father, mother and child. Judaism also recognized the triangle as representative of our three patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Some say that the triangle represents the three types of Jews, Israelites, Levites and Cohanim. Others see in the intertwining triangles the inseparable Jewish people. “Kol Yisrael Chaverim”. The triangle can also represent the past, the present and the future or the three kingdoms of matter, i.e. animal, vegetable and mineral.
The equilateral triangle can be fitted into a circle. Three dimensions also creates space. The two triangles, superimposed on one another, create an inner hexagon and a good deal of geometric interest in that construction.
The so-called “Jewish Star” was not always the prime symbol of Judaism. In ancient Israel and even now, the menorah is a major symbol of Israel. If you have been in Yerushalayim you have seen the menorah outside the Knesset or House of Representatives building.
It was not until the 16th century that European synagogues placed a Magen David on the outside of the Beth Hatefillah, the House of Prayer. This permitted Jews to distinguish a synagogue (Greek for assembly) or “shul” (from the German word for school, i.e. ‘Shule’) from a church (From the Greek words “Kyrie Elysion” i.e. House of God.).
In 1897 the Magen David was adopted by the Zionist Congress meeting in Basel, Switzerland. At that time the flag of Israel was devised although Israel did not yet exist. That flag has a white background and two blue stripes resembling the talit or prayer shawl which married men wear during Shabbat services. The Magen David is centered upon that flag.
In 1930 a group of volunteers organized the Magen David Adam in Tel Aviv. This was a group of seven Israeli doctors who ran a one-room emergency medical service. In 1931 a second Magen David Adam was founded in Haifa and the third one in Yerusholayim was founded in 1934. Thereafter all of Israel was “covered” by the Magen David Adam .
The Magen David Adam was fashioned after the Red Cross, which had been founded in Switzerland in 1864. That society turned the Swiss flag inside out in that the Swiss flag has a red background and a White cross while the Red Cross flies the opposite.
To this day, the International Red Cross refuses to recognize the Jewish Red Magen David Society and maintains that they can only recognize societies using the cross. This “official” reasoning makes no sense since Muslim Red Crescent societies are not only allowed as members but are also recognized by the International Red Cross. Evidently the International Red Cross continues to promote its anti-Jewish bigotry as they did during the Hitler years, when their representatives visited the concentration camp at Theresienstadt and then reported to the world that the Jews were well treated in that and other camps. Of course, the Swiss are the same people who made huge profits from the Jewish art, money and jewelry deposited in their banks by Nazi agents during the second world war.
This brings us to yet another use of the Magen David. That was the use made of it by the Nazi dictatorship, who ruled that all Jews had to wear a yellow star with a black inscription reading “Jude”. This had to be worn by all Jews at all times leading to ready identification and murder. You can see one of those stars on occasion during a holocaust commemoration. The Germans also decreed that a Magen David had to be affixed to all apartments or houses in which a Jew lived.
The Magen David is now also worn as jewelry and as a sign of honor and respect for those who proudly proclaim Yehudi anouchi, I am a Jew and a member of the Chosen People.
May we always wear it with honor.