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What Does your Flag Tell You?

The idea of flying flags actually started on the battlefield. Shields were painted on pieces of cloth which would identify friend or foe. Warriors needed to know where their leaders were positioned and the custom of carrying a pole with a flag attached was adopted, thereby leading to national flags on flagpoles. The word “flag” is actually derived from an old Saxon word “fflaken” which means to fly or float in the air.

The flag of Israel is on a white background and has a blue hexagram (known as The Magen David, meaning the shield of David but also referred to as the star of David) along with two horizontal bands top and bottom. The white part of the flag represents peace and honesty and the blue represents vigilance, truth and loyalty, perseverance and justice.

Contrary to popular belief, there is no mention of the Star (or shield) of David in the Bible. There are several Rabbinic tales as to the origin of the Star of David but they are without any Biblical or archaeological basis. As you know, the Star consists of two intertwined triangles: one pointing up to God and the other pointing down to man – which symbolises the relationship between the two. According to author Franz Rosenzweig, the six points represent two triads: creation, revelation and redemption along with God, Israel and the Gentile world. Another author equates the six points to the six aspects of the Divine Spirit as per Isaiah 11:2: And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.

The Star has 12 lines about its perimeter, possibly representing the 12 tribes of Israel.

The earliest archaeological finds bearing the sign are a Jew's tombstone in Tarentum, Italy, dating to the 3rd century and its appearance on the wall of a 6th-century synagogue within the borders of ancient Israel. It was used quite infrequently until its official adoption by Jews in Prague in the 17th century and later by the Zionist movement in 1897. Nazi Germany used the symbol to mark Jews within their borders, and after much debate, it came to be used on the national flag of reconstituted Israel in 1948. As a result, the Star of David is now universally recognized as a representation of Judaism, Israel, and Zionism.

Theodor Herzl (the man instrumental in the beginning of the Zionist movement) originally suggested a white flag with seven golden stars. Herzl went on to explain that the white background would represent “the purity of our new life” whilst the seven golden stars would represent “the seven golden hours of our working day”. I am sure any modern worker toiling away for nine hours a day would love to adopt the model of only working seven hours!

In the end, the decision was made to take elements from the Jewish prayer shawl (talith). The first person to suggest the blue and white colours was an Austrian poet named Ludwig August Frankl. He expressed his idea in a poem entitled “Judah’s colours”, shown below.

“When sublime feelings his heart fill, He is mantled in the colours 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 borders of Judah. White is the radiance of the priesthood, And blue, the splendours of the firmament.”

Now, all of that is interesting, but here is the most interesting part. If a flag is flown upside down, it is a symbol of distress. But looking at the flag of Israel, what do you notice? Israel’s flag is exactly the same upside down as it is right side up. It is only one of a few flags in the world where this action is able to be undertaken. To me, that shows that Israel is always in God’s protective care, that they should never feel in distress and what He has declared right side up, can never be turned upside down.

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