גThe Flag and the Emblem

“…Like all other nations in their own sovereign State…”

Choosing the national flag

On June 8, 1948 the Provisional Government published an announcement in the newspapers inviting the citizens of Israel to submit proposals for the state emblem and flag. the announcement stated that the colors of the flag would be “light blue and white,” and in the middle of the flag there would be “a Star of David or seven stars (in gold or some other color).” The first set of components represnted the flag of the World Zionist Organization, which consisted of two light blue stripes with a Star of David in between. The second set was based on Theodore Herzl’s proposal that the Zionist flag be adorned with seven stars symbolizing seven daily hours of work.

The newspapers announcement inviting the citizens of Israel to submit proposals for the state emblem and flag.

The “Emblem and Flag Committee” received dozens of suggestions from citizens from all sectors of the population. After reviewing them, the committee submitted two proposals for the flag. On July 11, the government chose a design by the graphic artist Otto Wallisch, consisting of two blue stripes, and between them, a white stripe adorned with seven stars of David in “whitish gold (or yellow).”

Proposals for designs of the national flag sent by Israeli citizens in response to an invitation put out by the Provisional Government, 8 June 1948.

The entire range of proposals for the flag can be examined  here in a series of albums and files found at the Israel State Archives.

See the Protocol of the Provisional Committee, here

The flag’s design

The Provisional Council of State rejected the government’s proposal,and appointed a committee of its own to design the state’s flag and emblem. After consulting representatives of Jewish communities in the Diaspora, the committee decided on July 28, 1948 to adopt the Zionist flag as the state flag. Their decision was approved by the Provisional Council on October 28, and from then on, the Zionist flag has been the official national flag of Israel.

 A graphic description of the flag’s structure was defined in the Flag and Emblem Law of 1949 found at the “Proposals for the State of Israel” file.

Specification of the flag’s design

The flag of Israel is white with a blue Magen David (six-pointed linear star known as the Star of David) centered between two equal horizontal blue bands near the top and bottom edges of the flag.

image by Željko Heimer, 10 October 2002

The Israeli flag legislation states that the official measurements of the flag are 160 × 220 cm. Therefore the official proportions are 8:11. Since nobody enforces this law, one can find variants at wide range of proportions.

Željko Heimer, 7 February 2002

The Magen David is sufficiently defined as “stripes 5.5 cm wide” only if it is made up of equilateral triangles of that height. Taking up a drawing board it is easily shown that then it is inscribed in an circle 12 times the basic unit (i.e. in this case 66 cm).  For more information on the flag’s designe visit the  Flags of the World.

The flag’s color

Choosing the exact color of the blue stripes and the Star of David was also accompanied by many discussions and deliberations found in the in the “The Flag and Emblem National Committee” file.

The committee finally decided on the following color:

Official decision regarding the shade of blue to be used on the national flag, and a sample of the blue shade to be used on the flag with directions for perparing the color. 18 January 1950.

The Flag and Emblem Law 1949

The Flag and Emblem Law enacted in May 1949 regulates the legal and political status of the flag and the emblem of the State of Israel.

The Flag and Emblem Law, signed by President Chaim Weizmann, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion and Minister of Interior Moshe Shapira and stamped with the seal of the State.

The legislation was preceded by discussions and drafts that can be examined in “The Flag and Emblem Law” file deposited by the Prime Minister’s Office.

 Choosing the state emblem

In the announcement of 8 June, 1948 mentioned above, inviting the citizens of Israel to submit proposals for the state emblem and flag, the following guidelines were provided: the colors of the emblem would be “light blue and white, and any additional color, at the discretion of the artists. At its center, the emblem would have a seven-branched Menorah (candlelabrum) and seven six-point stars.”

Approximately 150 proposals for an emblem were submitted to the “Emblem and Flag Committee”, which was established specifically for this purpose. They came from citizens representing all sectors of the population. On July 15, the Provisional Council of State convened to discuss the government proposal, and finally rejected it. At a meeting of the Provisional Council of State held on October 14, 1948, two proposals were considered: the first, an emblem with a Menorah surrounded by seven stars, along with the inscription Shalom al Yisrael or “Peace on Israel”; and the second, a Menorah encircled with a lulav, an etrog, and a shofar. Fierce opposition was voiced to both proposals. At the next session of the Council, it was decided to return the issue to the committee.

Proposals for designs of the national emblem sent by Israeli citizens in response to an invitation put out by the Provisional Government, 8 June 1948.

Proposals for designs of the national emblem sent by Israeli citizens in response to an invitation put out by the Provisional Government, 8 June 1948.

Proposals for designs of the national emblem sent by Israeli citizens in response to an invitation put out by the Provisional Government, 8 June 1948.

On November 12, the emblem and flag committee decided to engage the general public in the discussion on the symbol, and again published an announcement in the newspapers inviting submissions. 131 people took part in the competition. The committee chose a proposal submitted by graphic artist Maxim Shamir, and after a few modifications, including the request that the seven-branched Menorah be modeled after the one that appears on Titus’s Arch in Rome, the proposal was submitted to the Provisional Council of State. On February 10, 1949, the Council approved the official Emblem of the State of Israel.

The entire range of proposals for the state emblem can be examined here. The protocols of the Provisional Committee are here

The national emblem

The state emblem was designed by the brothers Gabriel and Maxim Shamir with a Menorah at its center (a seven-branched candelabrum), an olive branch on either side and the word “Israel” connecting the branches at the bottom. The emblem is based on the verses in the prophecy of Zechariah (chapter 4):

“Then the angel who talked with me returned and woke me up, like someone awakened from sleep.  He asked me, “What do you see?” I answered, “I see a solid gold lampstand with a bowl at the top and seven lamps on it, with seven channels to the lamps.  Also there are two olive trees by it, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left.”

“We appeal to the United Nations to assist the Jewish people…”

Israel joins the U.N.

On November 29, 1948, exactly a year after the approval of the Partition Plan for Palestine, Israel submitted a request for membership of the United Nations. The Security Council discussed the request in December, 1948, but only five members supported it and the decision was deferred. Israel’s request was finally approved by the required majority of Security Council members in early March, 1949. At a meeting of the General Assembly on May 11, Israel was formally accepted as a member of the United Nations, with 37 nations voting in favor and 12 opposed. On the following day, a festive ceremony took place, attended by the members of the Israeli delegation to the United Nations headed by Foreign Minister Moshe Sharett and Israel’s UN representative, Abba Eban. At this ceremony, the flag of Israel was unfurled in front of the UN building for the first time. Years later, the original flag was acquired by Dr. Harry Levine, a Jewish dentist and ardent Zionist from Connecticut. In the summer of 1961, Dr. Levine returned the original flag to Israel, and since then it has been held by the Israel State Archives.

The flag of Israel is flown at UN headquarters for the first time, New York, 12 May 1949, a day after Israel was admitted as a member state. In attendance Foreign Minister Sharett, Israel’s representative at the UN Eban, and members of the Israeli delegation.

The original Israeli flag hoisted at the UN in 1949

aA close-up of the flag that was hoisted at the United Nations in 1949 enables a glance at the type of seams and fabric

The lable of the Israeli flag hoisted at the UN in 1949

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