Jewish Life Kolot

Kolot: What’s in a Flag – or an Anthem – Anyway?

By Aharon Pulver ~
Our flag and anthem represent the majority of the Jewish state. If Turkish Jews demanded the removal of the Muslim crescent from that nation’s flag, or refused to sing its anthem, we can just imagine the ensuing pogrom!
Any vexillologist (student of flags) will tell you that the Danes have it over the Jews. Yes, the Danes!
Danish citizens fly what is arguably the oldest national flag in continual use by a nation state today. The “Dannebrog”, a red flag with a white Christian cross that has one side extended (often referred to as a “Scandinavian cross”), is flown everywhere in Denmark with great pride.
It dates approximately, in its present unchanged form, from the 12th century CE. Moreover the Danish flag, with its simple and bold Christian motif, is the model upon which the Norwegian, Swedish, Finnish and Icelandic flags are based. Countless other territories and dependent political entities from the Faroe Islands to the Shetlands use the same stylistic clearly religious Scandinavian cross format.
The list of national flags with Christian motifs is really quite a bit longer than the above. Newly independent Georgia has no less than five crosses on its national flag, and the fabled Union Jack of Great Britain was created from three crosses…one for the union of England and Wales, one for the Scots and one for the Irish (whether either of the latter want them there or not).
The Greeks have one on their flag… the Swiss and the Tongans as well, not to mention five US states… yes in the land of separated church and state (Alabama, Florida, Hawaii, Maryland, Mississippi). In fact a multitude of national flags display religious symbols, be they Christian, Muslim, Buddhist or Hindu. And, oh…yes, today there is even one that is Jewish!
In the long years of our exile, Jews have saluted a myriad of flags as patriotic citizens of the nations in which we have resided, whether or not they had Christian motifs. Jews have proudly fought and died for those nations without regard to the religious nature of the symbols of state in which they lived as a loyal minority.
They clearly understood that participation in the life and defense of the state, seeking the state’s welfare, was a key to justifiable demands of minority freedom and equality. The equality Jews sought and all too often died for would never include demands to denude their host countries of those countries symbols of national identity.
Such is the life of a patriot born to a minority religious group. And who knows that better than us.
Yet here and now, after a two thousand year hiatus filled with horror, the only nation state with Jewish national symbols has among its own majority and minority populations, not insignificant groups bent on changing the symbols of the nation as a prelude to changing its very character and essence. Changing our national symbols is but part of the broad anti-Israel agenda which seeks a “state of all its citizens” as but a first step towards the destruction of Israel as we know and love it.
Rather than discussing why we should change our national symbols…our flag, our state seal or our national anthem… to satisfy a marginal political group or a religious/ethnic minority, or a group that is hostile to our national aspirations, we should ask why anyone would seek to change the symbols of state held dear by the majority that affords us all  the liberties and freedom our neighbors can only dream of, if they ever dream of the extension of political rights at all!
Moreover, one may ask how may Floridian Jews have demanded that their state flag be changed to better represent their not insignificant numbers? Is Florida not a “state of all its citizens”?
How many Greek Jews refused to serve in the Hellenic Armed forces when their country was invaded by the Italians in WWII because they would have to salute a cross?
How many British Jews refuse to proudly display the  Union Jack in their synagogues or on their homes upon the occasion of a royal event?
How many Finnish Jews petition the Finnish High Court to change that nation’s national symbols, including the presidential flag which has a stylized swastika in the canton?
Israel’s national symbols correctly reflect the sentiments of the Jewish People and the vast majority of Israel’s citizens. Our flag is a clear statement concerning the essence of our People and is based upon the stripes of a Tallit with a prominent Shield of David, all reminiscent of the Biblical T’chelet.
Interestingly the UK, Switzerland, some of the Scandinavian nations, among many others all of whom fly Christian national flags and have Christian national symbols, directly fund efforts in Israel to create NGO’s which seek to delegitimize OUR inherent right to OUR national symbols.
Yet if there was a movement among British Jews which had the temerity to demand changes in the Union Jack, a Christian banner if there ever was one, I would think that British patriots would reply that none are forced to stay and live in a nation they find politically, ethnically and/or religiously abhorrent with symbols they feel the need to disrespect and revile. If Turkish Jews demanded the removal of the Muslim crescent from that nation’s flag we can just imagine the ensuing pogrom!
Our flag, our State Seal with its depiction of the Menorah and HaTikvah, our anthem, represent who we are and what we hold to be true and self- evident. It matters less to me if some refuse to fly it, to display it, or to sing it.

The flag of Israel

We will neither change them nor allow them to be debased. It is high time to state those parameters clearly!
That’s what’s in the flag…anyway!

Aharon Pulver is Executive Director of The Israel Independence Fund.
Readers are invited to submit original work on a topic of their choosing to Kolot.  Submissions should be sent to

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