Flag of Israel
|Adopted||October 28, 1948|
|Design||Blue Star of David between two horizontal blue stripes on a white field.|
|Variant flag of Israel|
|Design||Navy blue flag with a white vertically elongated oval set near the hoist containing a vertically elongated blue Star of David.|
|Variant flag of Israel|
|Design||Navy blue flag with a white triangle at hoist and blue Star of David in it.|
|Variant flag of Israel|
|Use||Israeli Air Force flag|
|Design||Light blue flag with thin white stripes with dark blue borders near the top and bottom, displaying an air force roundel in the center.|
The flag of Israel (Hebrew: דגל ישראל Degel Yisrael, Arabic: علم إسرائيل 'Alam Isra'īl) was adopted on October 28, 1948, five months after the country's establishment. It depicts a blue hexagram on a white background, between two horizontal blue stripes.
The blue colour is mandated only as "dark sky-blue", and varies from flag to flag, ranging from a hue of pure blue, sometimes shaded almost as dark as navy blue, to hues about 75% toward pure cyan and shades as light as very light blue. The flag was designed for the Zionist Movement in 1891. The basic design recalls the Ashkenazi Tallit, the Jewish prayer shawl, which is white with blue stripes. The symbol in the centre represents the Magen David ("Star of David"), a Jewish symbol dating from late medieval Prague, which was adopted by the First Zionist Congress in 1897.
In 2007, an Israeli flag measuring 660 m × 100 m (2,170 ft × 330 ft) and weighing 5.2 t (5.7 short tons) was unfurled near the ancient Jewish fortress of Masada, breaking the world record for the largest flag.
Origin of the flag
The blue stripes are intended to symbolize the stripes on a tallit, the traditional Jewish prayer shawl. The portrayal of a Star of David on the flag of the State of Israel is a widely-acknowledged symbol of Judaism.
The Israelites used a blue coloured dye called tekhelet; this dye may have been made from the marine snail Murex trunculus. This dye was very important in both Jewish and non-Jewish cultures of this time, and was used by royalty and the upper class in dyeing their clothing, sheets, curtains, etc. (The dye from a related snail can be processed to form Tyrian purple called argaman.)
In the Bible, the Israelites are commanded to have one of the threads of their tassels (tzitzit) dyed with tekhelet; "so that they may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the LORD, and do them (Num 15:39)." Tekhelet corresponds to the colour of the divine revelation (Midrash Numbers Rabbah xv.). Sometime near the end of the Talmudic era (500-600 CE) the industry that produced this dye collapsed. It became more rare; over time, the Jewish community lost the tradition of which species of shellfish produced this dye. Since Jews were then unable to fulfil this commandment, they have since left their tzitzit (tallit strings) white. However, in remembrance of the commandment to use the tekhelet dye, it became common for Jews to have blue or purple stripes woven into the cloth of their tallit. The idea that the blue and white colours were the national colour of the Jewish people was voiced early on by Ludwig August Frankl (1810–1894); an Austrian Jewish poet. In his poem, "Judah's Colours", he writes:
When sublime feelings his heart fill, he is mantled in the colors of his country. He stands in prayer, wrapped in a sparkling robe of white.
The hems of the white robe are crowned with broad stripes of blue; Like the robe of the High Priest, adorned with bands of blue threads.
These are the colours of the beloved country, blue and white are the colours of Judah; White is the radiance of the priesthood, and blue, the splendors of the firmament.
In 1885, the agricultural village of Rishon LeZion used a blue and white flag to mark its third anniversary. A blue and white flag, with a Star of David and the Hebrew word "Maccabee", was used in 1891 by the Bnai Zion Educational Society. Jacob Baruch Askowith (1844–1908) and his son Charles Askowith designed the “flag of Judah,” which was displayed on July 24, 1891, at the dedication of Zion Hall of the B’nai Zion Educational Society in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S. Based on the traditional tallit, or Jewish prayer shawl, that flag was white with narrow blue stripes near the edges and bore in the center the ancient six-pointed Shield of David with the word “Maccabee” in gilt letters.
David Wolffsohn (1856–1914), a businessman prominent in the early Zionist movement, was aware that the nascent Zionist movement had no official flag, and that the design proposed by Theodor Herzl was gaining no significant support, wrote:
At the behest of our leader Herzl, I came to Basle to make preparations for the Zionist Congress. Among many other problems that occupied me then was one that contained something of the essence of the Jewish problem. What flag would we hang in the Congress Hall? Then an idea struck me. We have a flag — and it is blue and white. The talith (prayer shawl) with which we wrap ourselves when we pray: that is our symbol. Let us take this Talith from its bag and unroll it before the eyes of Israel and the eyes of all nations. So I ordered a blue and white flag with the Shield of David painted upon it. That is how the national flag, that flew over Congress Hall, came into being.
While this flag emphasizes Jewish religious symbols, Theodor Herzl wanted the flag to have more universal symbols: 7 golden stars symbolizing the 7-hour working quota of the enlightened state-to-be, which would have advanced socialist legislations.
In 1897, the First Zionist Congress was held in Basel, Switzerland, to consider establishing a homeland for Jews in Palestine. Morris Harris, a member of New York Hovevei Zion, used his awning shop to design a suitable banner and decorations for the reception, and his mother Lena Harris sewed the flag. The flag was made with two blue stripes and a large blue Star of David in the center, the colours blue and white chosen from the design of the tallit. The flag was ten feet by six feet—in the same proportions as the flag of the United States—and became known as the Flag of Zion. It was accepted as the official Zionist flag at the Second Zionist Congress held in Switzerland in 1898, and the State of Israel later adopted the design as the official flag, upon its independence from the United Kingdom in 1948.
A flag with blue and white stripes and a Magen David in the center flew with those of other nationalities from one of the buildings at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition of 1904. It flew there in relation to large meetings of Zionists. That expo was the World's Fair hosting the 1904 Summer Olympics.
Interpretation of colours
|White||Symbol of light, honesty, innocence and peace.|
|Blue||It symbolizes trust, loyalty, wisdom, confidence, intelligence, faith, truth, and heaven.|
Criticism by Israeli Arabs
Some Israeli Arab politicians, as well as the High Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel have requested a re-evaluation of the Israeli flag, arguing that the Star of David at the flag's center is an exclusively Jewish symbol.
However, many other nations have religiously exclusive symbols on their flags as well. For example, Muslim symbols are on the flags of Algeria, Turkey, and Pakistan, and Christian symbols are on the flags of Denmark, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.
In addition, the Star of David was not historically an exclusively Jewish symbol. It appeared on some Muslim coins and the flags of the Karamanid and Jandarid Turkish Muslim dynasties, as well as in Christian architecture such as the Basilica of Santa Croce, Florence.
Orthodox Jewish opposition
- See also: Haredim and Zionism
Rabbi Moses Feinstein called the Israel flag "a foolish and meaningless object" and discouraged its display in synagogues. Former Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel, Ovadia Yosef, forbade the flying of the Israeli flag in synagogues. The Chazon Ish went further to forbid entry into a synagogue decorated with an Israeli flag even if there is no other synagogue in the area.
"Nile to Euphrates" controversy
It has been alleged by some groups that the blue stripes on the Israeli flag actually represent the rivers Nile and Euphrates as the boundaries of Eretz Yisrael, the land promised to the Jews by God. Those making this allegation insist that the flag "secretly" represents the desire of Jews to conquer all of the land between the Nile and Euphrates rivers, which would involve conquering and ruling over much of Egypt, all of Jordan, and some of Syria and Iraq. Yasser Arafat, Iran and Hamas also made the allegation, and repeatedly tied this notion to the stripes on the Israeli flag.
Both Zionist and anti-Zionist authors have debunked the claim that the stripes on the flag represent territorial ambitions. Daniel Pipes notes "In fact, the blue lines derive from the design on the traditional Jewish prayer shawl", and Danny Rubinstein points out that "...Arafat... added, in interviews that he gave in the past, that the two blue stripes on the Israeli flag represent the Nile and the Euphrates... No Israeli, even those who demonstrate understanding for Palestinian distress, will accept the... nonsense about the blue stripes on the flag, which was designed according to the colours of the traditional tallit (prayer shawl)..." Persistent critic of Israel and Zionism Israel Shahak is equally explicit. In his The Zionist Plan for the Middle East he states
A good example is the very persistent belief in the non-existent writing on the wall of the Knesset of the Biblical verse about the Nile and the Euphrates. Another example is the persistent, and completely false declarations, which were made by some of the most important Arab leaders, that the two blue stripes of the Israeli flag symbolize the Nile and the Euphrates, while in fact they are taken from the stripes of the Jewish praying shawl (Talit).
Saqr Abu Fakhr, an Arab writer, has also spoken out against this idea. He writes that the "Nile to Euphrates" claim regarding the flag is one of seven popular misconceptions and/or myths about Jews which, despite being unfounded and having abundant evidence refuting them, continue to circulate in the Arab world.
Nevertheless, the Hamas covenant states "After Palestine, the Zionists aspire to expand from the Nile to the Euphrates," and as recently as January 29, 2006, Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar issued a demand for Israel to change its flag, citing the "Nile to Euphrates" argument.
Reference in the Nuremberg Laws
Paragraph 4 in "The Laws for the Protection of German Blood and German Honour", part of the infamous Nazi Nuremberg Laws of 1935, states that 1. "Jews are forbidden to display the Reich and national flag or the [German] national colours. 2. On the other hand, they are permitted to display the Jewish colours. The exercise of this right is protected by the State." Paragraph 5.3 described the penalty for infringing "1": up to one year's imprisonment plus fine, or one of these. The "Jewish colours" referred to in this article were blue and white.
Famous Israeli Flags
- The Israeli Flag that stayed flying throughout the siege of Fort Budapest during the Yom Kippur War, which is currently preserved in the Israeli Armored Corps memorial at Latrun. Fort Budapest was the only strongpoint along the vaunted Bar-Lev Line to remain in Israeli hands during the war.
- The "Ink Flag" of 1948, which was raised during the War of Independence near present-day Eilat. This homemade flag's raising on a pole by several Israeli soldiers was immortalized in a photograph that has been compared with the famous photograph of the United States Flag being raised on the island of Iwo Jima in 1944. Like the latter photograph, the Ink Flag raising has also been reproduced as a memorial.
- The 2007 World Record Flag, which was unveiled at an airfield near the historic mountain fortress of Masada. The flag, manufactured in the Philippines, measured 660 x 100 metres (2,165 x 330 feet) and weighed 5.2 metric tonnes, breaking the previous record, measured and verified by representatives for the Guinness Book of Records. It was made by Filipino entrepreneur and Evangelical Christian Grace Galindez-Gupana as a religious token and diplomatic gesture of support for Israel.
- Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs publication The Flag and the Emblem by art historian Alec Mishory, wherein he quotes "The Provisional Council of State Proclamation of the Flag of the State of Israel" made on October 28, 1948 by Joseph Sprinzak, Speaker.
- Varied examples; Flag ~75% toward cyan from pure blue full article:The Flag and the Emblem Accessed July 28, 2006.
- "Giant Israeli flag breaks world record for largest in world". Haaretz. Associated Press. 25 November 2007. Retrieved 2013-11-19.
- Navon, Mois. "Historical Review of Tekhelet & the Hillazon". Ptil Tekhelet Organization. Retrieved 2013-11-19.
- Simmons, Rabbi Shraga. Tallit stripes, About.com's "Ask the Rabbi". Accessed April 3, 2006.
- Frankl, A. L. "Juda's Farben", in Ahnenbilder (Leipzig, 1864), p. 127
- Sholem, G. (September 1949). "The Curious History of the Six Pointed Star; How the 'Magen David' Became the Jewish Symbol". Commentary. p. 243-251. Retrieved 2013-11-19.
- Zionism article (section Wide Spread of Zionism) by Richard Gottheil in the Jewish Encyclopedia, 1911
- The National Committee for the Heads of the Arab Local Authorities in Israel (December 2006). "The Future Vision of Palestinian Arabs in Israel" (PDF). Retrieved 2009-10-08.
- Yakov M. Rabkin (2006). A threat from within: a century of Jewish opposition to Zionism. Fernwood Pub. p. 166. ISBN 978-1-55266-171-0. Retrieved 16 August 2011.
- Yakov Rabkin. Judaism vs Zionism in the Holy Land, A Threat from Within: A Century of Jewish Opposition to Zionism, Fernwood/Zed Books, 2006.
- Genesis 15.18: "The Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying unto thy seed have I given this land from the river of Egypt [the Nile] unto the great river, the River Euphrates."
- Playboy Interview: Yasir Arafat, Playboy, September 1988.
ARAFAT: Yes, because they don't want it. Look at the slogans they use: that the land of Israel is from the Euphrates to the Nile. This was written for many years over the entrance to the Knesset, the parliament. It shows their national ambition — they want to advance to the Jordan River. One Israel for them, what's left for us... Do you know what the meaning of the Israeli flag is?
ARAFAT: It is white with two blue lines. The two lines represent two rivers, and in between is Israel. The rivers are the Nile and the Euphrates.
- Rubin, Barry. The PLO between Anti-Zionism and Antisemitism, Background and Recent Developments, The Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 1993. Accessed April 3, 2006.
- Pipes, Daniel. Imperial Israel: The Nile-to-Euphrates Calumny, Middle East Quarterly, March, 1994. Accessed April 3, 2006.
- Abu Fakhr, Saqr. "Seven Prejudices about the Jews", Al-Hayat, November 12–14, 1997.
- Shiloh, Scott. Mofaz: Hamas Acting Responsibly; Hamas: Israel Must Change Flag, Arutz Sheva, January 30, 2006. Accessed April 3, 2006.
- J. Boas: German–Jewish Internal Politics under Hitler 1933–1938, in: Leo Baeck Institute Yearbook, 1984, pp3–25
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