Israeli flags were especially prevalent in the Holy Land yesterday for Israel Independence Day. While you’re probably familiar with the Israeli flag, you likely don’t know all the symbolism and history behind this Israeli icon.
Haaretz recently shared this backstory, including how the flag started as a symbol of the Zionist movement.
By the late 19th century, both the Star of David and blue and white had become acknowledged as symbols of Judaism. All that remained was for them to be joined in a flag.
Apparently, the first to do this was Israel Belkind, founder of the Bilu movement. In 1885, he flew a flag with a blue Star of David with the word Zion (in Hebrew) in its center, in Rishon Letzion. Above and below were blue stripes, but unlike the Israeli flag these were pairs of stripes - two on top and two below.
Six years later, in 1891, at the dedication of the Bnei Zion meeting hall in Boston, Massachusetts, a flag with just one stripe on the bottom and one on top was flown. It was identical to what would become the Israeli flag but for the word “Maccabi” in the center of the Star of David.
Six more years later, preparing for the First Zionist Congress held in Basel, Switzerland in 1897, David Wolfson, Zionist leader Theodor Herzl's second in command, had the first Zionist Flag made. It too had two blue stripes, but these were thinner. It was different in other ways too. The Star of David in its center had six smaller stars in each one of its points and another little star over it. These were supposed to symbolize the seven-hour work day Herzl envisioned for the future Jewish state. In addition, in the middle of the Star of David was a lion.