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The Israeli Flag

The Israeli flag was originally the banner of the World Zionist Organization and was first adopted as a flag during the first Zionist Congress in 1897 (Basel, Switzerland).

Below, are some quotes explaining its origin, conception, and implementation as the official flag of the state of Israel.

The Israeli flag in the first congress hall in Basel. Source: The National Library of Israel.

In his book "The Jewish State" published in 1896, Herzl wrote the following regarding the necessity of having a flag:

"We have no flag, and we need one. If we desire to lead many men, we must raise a symbol above their heads. I would suggest a white flag, with seven golden stars. The white field symbolizes our pure new life; the stars are the seven golden hours of our working day. For we shall march into the Promised Land carrying the badge of honor." (Herzl, Theodore, chap. 5)

The origins of the flag design can be found in David Wolffsohn and Isidor Schalit's quotes. Wolffsohn was the former president of the Zionist Organization, and Schalit was Herzl's assistant.

Isidor Schalit was originally thinking of having a flag with different colors. In his notes, he writes:

(...) I was bothered by the question of the flag. Herzl's preference was for the flag he proposed in 'The Jewish State': seven gold stars on a white background – a symbol of the labor and peace regime where a seven-hour workday would prevail... I suggested the flag of the Zionist-Academic Association 'Kadima': blue-red-yellow, where blue symbolized hope, red represented our spilled blood, and yellow stood for the coveted freedom we would attain... I did not receive explicit instructions and decided, based on my own judgment, to raise a blue and white flag. Indeed, (...) I remembered that I arrived at this choice based on the conversation between David Wolffsohn and Herzl: relying on the colors of the 'Talith' seemed very appropriate to Herzl."

On the other hand, Wolffsohn 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 which 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 ahawl) with which we wrap ouselves 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.”**

The creation of the flag is mainly attributed to Wolffshon, but overall, the interactions between these two and Herzl led to the creation of the flag we know today.

A few decades later, this flag was hung behind David Ben-Gurion at the ceremony of the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel in May 1948.

Only a few days after the Zionist dream had become a reality, the question was raised as to whether the Zionist banner should be the flag of the state or should be replaced.

The dilemma continued for about six months until the following notice was published in the Official Gazette, on the 28th of October 1948:

"The Provisional Council of State hereby proclaims that the flag of the State of Israel shall be as illustrated and described below: The flag is 220 cm. long and 160 cm. wide. The background is white and on it are two stripes of dark sky-blue, 25 cm. broad, over the whole length of the flag, at a distance of 15 cm. from the top and from the bottom of the flag. In the middle of the white background, between the two blue stripes and at an equal distance from each stripe is a Star of David, composed of six dark sky-blue stripes, 5.5 cm. broad, which form two equilateral triangles, the bases of which are parallel to the two horizontal stripes." 25 Tishrei 5709 (28 October 1948) - Provisional Council of State, by Joseph Sprinzak, Speaker

The final decision to adopt this flag as the national flag of the Jewish State was made after Moshe Sharett met with Jewish communities worldwide, particularly in the United States, to secure their approval for the flag of the World Zionist Movement to also become the flag of the State of Israel.

The presence of the blue stripes running along the length of the flag is based on the idea of the prayer shawl (talith) adorned with stripes. The colors, white and blue, are derived from the colors of the High Priest's garments during the celebration of Yom Kippur in the time of the temple. The symbol of the Star of David (Magen David) is central to the flag; it has been found in the cultures of communities since antiquity and is identified with Judaism in art and numerous religious objects.

Sources :

KKL Brochure


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