Kids Israel Flags 311.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Recently, while attending synagogue, I was struck by the sheer number of symbols
that greet a visitor. From the mezuza on the door to the blazing eternal light
next to the holy ark, it seems the entire structure is laden with tangible items
that are designed to stir our souls or spark our imagination.
course, is as it should be. If worship is to be fully experiential and
absorbing, it must engage our senses no less than our minds and
And yet, oddly enough, I noticed that there is one highly
evocative emblem that is glaringly absent from nearly all Israeli shuls. It is
one that most certainly should be accorded a place of honor, and yet it is
nowhere to be found in our synagogues: the blue-and-white flag of the Jewish
The flag is a symbol of patriotism and unity, of restored Jewish
sovereignty and our profound commitment to a shared national destiny, regardless
of our differences. Is there a site more fitting for it to stand than in our
shuls? The omission of the flag in local synagogues is particularly strange
given their central role in the life of our people going all the way back to
biblical times. According to Numbers 2:2, God instructed that “the Children of
Israel shall encamp, each man by his banner according to the insignias of their
The midrash in Numbers Raba states that even the
heavenly angels have flags, and that God assigned banners to the Jewish people
as a sign of His love and affection for them. The tribes of Israel raised their
flags as an assertion of identity and display of dignity.
GROWING UP in
the US, I remember well how the sanctuary of every synagogue was bedecked with
two banners: one American and one Israeli, as a sign of fidelity and
It was a simple, yet powerful, statement: At the heart of
our communal life as Jews, which centers around the synagogue, we place the flag
as a badge of pride and a mark of dedication.
Okay, you might be
thinking, that sounds nice. But we live in Israel, so why should we put the flag
on display in synagogues here? The answer is really quite simple: We should
never underestimate the power of symbols to influence people and to strengthen
their attachment to what those symbols represent.
One of the most
pressing questions of our times is how to instill the next generation with a
sense of patriotism and devotion to country, especially now, when the Zionist
idea is under attack from all quarters. All around us we see how values such as
civic pride and national self-esteem are in retreat. The best way to counter
that trend is to reach for the symbols that unite us and inspire us, such as the
Sure, prayers for the State of Israel and its soldiers are already
being recited in synagogues around the country. But there is nothing as
compelling as the visual component in motivating modern man.
object that the flag is a secular creation, one that is unbecoming to stand
inside the sanctuary where prayers are offered.
I could not possibly
In the book Nefesh Harav, the late Rabbi Joseph
Soloveitchik infused the flag with religious significance, noting that martyred
soldiers had fought to raise the national banner over liberated territory. “And
when that flag waves,” he is quoted as saying, “it arouses heaven’s mercy for
the people of Israel.”
Indeed, we waited 2,000 years to raise the flag of
an independent Jewish state, making it a defining insignia both of Jewish
history and destiny. It symbolizes the divine miracle of our nation’s rebirth,
and it brings Jews together from across the spectrum. Hence, there is no site
more fitting for it to stand than in the place where we all come together,
united before God.
So next time you go to synagogue, tell your rabbi or
community president that you want to see the blue-and-white proudly on display
on a permanent basis. It should flutter atop the building, and adorn the
Let’s place a flag in every shul, raising the country’s colors
and, with it, our spirits.