Israel's Symbols Remind Israelis of Home

Having just celebrated Israel’s 65th birthday, I wanted to take you back and remind you about Israel’s symbols – where do they come from and how long have they been around.

The official flag of the State of Israel represents the state, its sovereignty, its institutions and its citizens, in Israel and worldwide. The flag has a white background, two horizontal blue stripes and a blue Star of David in the middle. The flag was conceived during the period of the First Aliyah and was adopted as the flag of the Zionist movement in 1897. The flag was officially chosen as the flag of Israel on Oct. 28, 1948. It was chosen over other proposed flags, mainly because of the popularity it had gained among the Jewish population in Israel.

The two blue stripes represent a tallit, the Jewish prayer shawl, as well as both sides of the split Red Sea that the Jewish people walked through as written in the Bible. The Star of David represents the Jewish identity of Israel by recalling the culture and history of the Jewish people. In 2007 an Israeli flag measuring 660 by 100 meters and weighing 5.2 tons was unfurled near the ancient Jewish fortress of Masada, breaking the world record for the largest flag in the world.

The emblem of Israel is an escutcheon that contains a menorah in its center, two olive branches on both sides of the menorah and at the bottom the label “Israel.” The emblem was designed by brothers Gabriel and Maxim Shamir and was officially chosen on Feb. 10, 1949. It was chosen after a competition held in 1948.

“Hatikvah” is the national anthem of Israel. The anthem was written in 1878 by Naphtali Herz Imber, a secular Galician Jew from Zolochiv, who moved to the land of Israel in the early 1880s. The poem was subsequently adopted as the anthem of Hovevei Zion and later of the Zionist Movement at the First Zionist Congress in 1897 (with the flag). The text has undergone numerous changes. The anthem’s theme revolves around the nearly 2,000-year-old hope of the Jewish people to be a free and sovereign people in the Land of Israel, a national dream that was realized with the founding of the modern State of Israel in 1948.

In September 2007 the olive tree was selected as the national tree of the State of Israel and as its official representative in the botanical exhibition “We Are One World” in Beijing. I have been living abroad for the past few months, and every time I come across one of Israel’s symbols it reminds me of home.

Natalie Mahome is the Israeli Shlicha (emissary) to the Jewish Community of Portland

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