The Israeli Flag

Commentary by Dr. Gerhard Falk


The Flag of Israel

In 1897, at the First Zionist Congress held in Basel, Switzerland, the dais was decorated with a picture of the founder of the Zionist organization, Theodor Herzl, and two flags on each side of the picture.

The flag then used to symbolize the Zionist Congress was adopted by Israel fifty years later and has, since then, been the flag of that country. In 1948 the government of Israel adopted a proclamation to the effect that the flag should be 220 centimeters long and 160 centimeters wide (A centimeter is about 0.39 inches).  It was further decreed that the flag should have a white background and that it should contain two blue stripes, at a distance of 15cm. from the top and from the bottom of the flag. The Star of David was located in the center of the flag consisting of two equilateral triangles imposed upon one another. The bases of the two triangles, also called a hexagram, and located in the middle of the flag, are to be parallel to the two horizontal stripes (The triangle is used among many peoples because it represents the human family, which is a trinity consisting of father, mother and child).

We have all seen this flag many times. The Star of David was not, until relatively recently, a Jewish symbol like a menorah or a ram’s horn. The Magen David was first used as an emblem in Jewish books. The emblem used in books is usually called a colophon because it is placed at the end of the book. Colophon, which is Greek, means ending. The idea of the colophon was to identify the printer of the book and to differentiate this book from those of his competitors.

The Star of David is six pointed and is composed of two interlocking equilateral triangles. This symbol was adopted by many European Jewish communities at the time of the emancipation (Latin = to give out of hand; to release) of the Jews after the Napoleonic Wars (1814). Seeking a symbol equal to that of the Christian cross, Jews adopted the Magen David as a symbol to top the new synagogues then being constructed in Europe.

Therefore, when the first Zionist Congress met, the Magen David was already known to the Jews of Europe.

The blue stripes which are part of the flag of Israel resemble the Tallit worn by married men. Most Jewish men wear the Tallit only during religious services. However, some orthodox men wear such a tallit all the time, even on the street. The Torah requires that one of the fringes of the tallit should be blue. Exodus 28:4,43 tells us that the garments of the High Priest in the Temple in Jerusalem were white and blue, as were the curtains of the tabernacle (Exodus 26).

In 1864, years before the First Zionist Congress, the Jewish Viennese poet Ludwig August Frankl published a German poem called Judah’s Farben, or Colors, which proclaimed that blue and white are the colors of Judah and Israel. The poem was translated into Hebrew. Subsequently, the first Jewish town to be founded in modern Israel, Rishon l’Tzion (The First in Zion) flew a blue and white flag in 1885.

In October of 1948 the government of Israel voted to adopt the Zionist flag as the flag of Israel. There had been some dispute about this because there were those who feared that if a synagogue or other organization showed this flag then Jews would be accused of dual loyalty for flying the flag of a foreign country. This has not happened and appears to have been a spurious argument.

On September 1, 1941 the Star of David was also adopted by the German government as a badge of shame intended to identify Jews while walking on German streets. The decree of that day held that no Jew over the age of 6 was allowed to appear in public without the “Judenstern”, or Jew Star, which was black on a yellow background. Inside the star the word Jude, pronounced Yoode, appeared in Gothic script. It was further decreed that the star had to be sewn on the upper left side of any outer garment worn by a Jew.

It was therefore a tremendous feeling of joy that I felt when I visited Israel for the first time and saw the blue and white flag with the Magen David everywhere. The contrast between that and the Judenstern need not be elucidated here. It speaks for itself.

It needs to be added that there is of course also a Magen David Adam or Red Star of David which appears on the ambulances in Israel. The International Red Cross, which recognizes the Red Crescent of Moslem adjuncts to the Red Cross, refuses to recognize the Magen David Adam. This should really not be surprising since the Red Cross pretended to visit the Jewish victims of Nazi imprisonment in the 1930s and 1940s by going to the Theresienstadt camp where the Nazis showed them Jews briefly engaged in various recreational activities before being sent to Auschwitz the day after the Red Cross representative left. The Red Cross people knew this, of course, but wrote a report about Theresienstadt which accommodated Nazi propaganda entirely. Throughout the Second World War the International Red Cross did nothing for the Jews and found numerous excuses for Nazi brutality. This is not to be confused with the American Red Cross.

Today, every “shul”, every synagogue, displays the blue and white flag of Israel alongside the American flag. It is a symbol of the sovereignty of Israel for which the Jewish people waited 1900 years. May it be our inspiration and the signal of Jewish pride forever. Bimhayro v’yomaynoo.

Shalom u’vracha.

Dr. Gerhard Falk is the author of numerous publications, including Grandparents:  A New Look at the Supporting Generation (with Dr. Ursula A., Falk, 2002), & Man's Ascent to Reason (2002).

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