Yesterday, we celebrated Flag Day 2017 in the United States. The day celebrates adaption of the U.S. flag on June 4, 1777 by the Second Continental Congress. Pennsylvania was the first U.S. State to make Flag Day as a state holiday. On Flag Day 2017, I am thinking a lot about the Israeli Flag—one of the best and most beautiful symbols of the State of Israel.
There is a lot to know about the Israeli Flag. Here are just a few facts:
It was first designed for children to follow in an 1885 parade in Rishon L’Tzion.
In 1885, the city of Rishon L’Tzion celebrated its third anniversary. It was one of the successful cities of the First Aliyah.Part of the celebrations included a parade with a children’s delegation. How did the adults make sure the children knew the route of the parade? So they designed a small flag with two blue stripes and a Star of David in the middle. The teacher held this flag in front of the group of children so they would know who to follow.
It was voted on as the Israeli flag in the First World Zionist Congress—before the State was born!!
Part of what made the Jewish population in the Land of Israel before the State was established, what that the Jewish leadership built very necessary state institutions before 1948. By the late 1800’s they were already creating the symbols, health care, industries, etc. in order for a state to work. In 1897, the First Zionist Congress was held in Basle, Switzerland. During this meeting, many topics were discussed and debated, such as work within the Jewish communities and the establishment of the Jewish Colonial Trust. But it was also during this meeting that the Jewish leadership decided on the flag… the same flag we have today! If Israel were to have a Flag Day, it would be on the anniversary of the First Zionist Congress!
The stripes and blue and white colors represent a tallit, or a Jewish prayer shawl.
The Israeli flag is designed to resemble a tallit, or a Jewish prayer shawl. Today, there are so many designs for tallitot, from tie- dye to Batman. But it wasn’t always like that. For many, many years, the tallit was designed with strips at either end of the cloth. The blue resembles the color tekhelet, mentioned in the TaNaKh. So when we look at the Israeli Flag, we should be reminded of a prayer shawl—a symbol of the Jewish religion.
When hung vertically, the Star of David is rotated so that it will always be vertical on the flag.
The Star of David is placed in the center of the Israeli flag. While it has no formal history in its connection to Judaism, it is a very popular, Jewish symbol in contemporary society. It stands with one point at the top and one point to the bottom. Each side has two points of the Star. And this means that the top and bottom usually face the two strips.
However, when the flag is elongated in order to hang from a tall building on Independence Day, or at the Declaration of Independence ceremony itself, the Star of David is rotated ninety degrees with two points to the strips instead of one. This is because the Star of David must always be vertical on the flag, regardless of its orientation.
In 2007, Israel set a Guinness World Record with the unveiling of the largest flag in the world.
Unveiled at an airfield near Masada, this flag measured 2,170 feet by 330 feet and weighed 5.7 tons! How symbolic to display this large flag next to the site, where Jews chose to kill themselves as free Jews over becoming enslaved. Too bad Israel doesn’t have a Flag Day that they could have presented this huge flag on!
In conclusion, Flag Day in the United States is mostly celebrated in school and pre-schools throughout the country. But it provides us with an awesome opportunity to learn a little bit about the flags of other countries around the world. I hope everyone has a meaningful and fun Flag Day! And take a look at the Israeli flag while you’re at it!!