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ISRAEL    -    לאֵרָשְׂיִ






The National arms of Israel was adopted 11 september 1948:

Arms: Azure, a menorah of the Arc of Titus surrounded by a crown of laurel risning from the word ISRAEL  in base


On 14 May 1948, the state of israel was claimed in palestine, and on 11 September 1949, the law on the state coat of arms of Israel was published in the Official Gazette, “Iton Rasmi”. The shield is blue with a silver rim. The chaege is a menorah or seven-armed candlestick surrounded by olive branches. The base contains the word לארש׳ (Israel) in Hebrew letters. The figures on the shield are usually white,.someimes gold. In the Knesseth, the Israeli parliament, the symbol is in bronze.

The menorah is the symbol of Judaism. A large wrought iron menorah stands in front of the Knesseth as a sign of Israel's sovereignty.

The menorah in the coat of arms has the shape of the menorah as it is on the triumphal arch of Titus. Titus (emperor Titus 79-81) conquered Jerusalem in 70, with the final opposition by the Jews offered in the Temple where the seven-armed candlestick stood. After that, it was done with any form of self-government of the Jews. They spread in the Diaspora over the rest of the then Roman Empire with religion and kinship being all that could bind them. In many ways they can be compared with the Armenians who also spread across Europe. However, other peoples who were deprived of their political identity have usually adapted to the new situation in a different way.

Nevertheless, a number of symbols are known that indicate a fully developed Jewish polity. They are the Greek cross or crux quadrata, the hexagram and the seven-armed candlestick or menorah.




There are several symbols that can be associated with Judaism and Israel. The first symbol is the cross moline used by the Jews in many forms.

Crosses were used as religious or other symbols in almost every part of the world long before the beginning of the era. It is not always easy to determine whether these crosses have a religious meaning or are just a sign to notice or take possession of something.

A cross moline already occurs in the Middle East under the reign of Ashurnasirpal II of Assyria (883-859). The Assyrian monarchy was already a millennium old. Ashurnasirpal II bears the symbol on the stone on which he is depicted with other symbols that can be interpreted as empire symbols.  On other memorial stones or reliefs, the cross moline is set in a medallion placed on a pair of wings, and on still others the image of a monarch is applied to this symbol. Since one of these princes is armed with a bow and arrow, one can think of high commanders, but this does not make the square cross the symbol of the armed forces, of an empire or of another state institution. Unfortunately, what is meant by this cross is not mentioned anywhere, but it can easily be incorporated into the population of sun symbols that have been used as a national symbol over centuries.

In the Canaanite alphabets, a cross or cross saltire is the last letter with the sound value "t". [1] This is also the case in Hebrew where the letter תּ is called “taw” but has a different shape. [2]  The crosses found, for example, on Jewish bone chests from the 1st century AD. in Palestine it is interpreted as the Canaanite letter “T” which, because of the last position in the alphabet, is associated with the last day. It would be the “sign” mentioned in Ezekiel IX.4: “And the Lord said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and make a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and groan for all the abominations that are practiced there ”. I.e. this sign is a sign of election and especially during the Last Judgment (so also Revelation 9.4: “And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any vegetation, nor any tree, but only to those who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads ”). Opinions differ whether these coffins are Jewish or the first Christian interments, but in any case the use of the cross is rooted in the Jewish tradition. According to the early Christian writers Tertullian (155-220) and Origen (185-254), the earliest Christians saw the passage at Ezekiel as a prophecy of the sign of the cross. It is clear from some things that the cross has been associated with Christianity almost from the beginning. This cross must be interpreted as a sign of election. [3]  Thus, while in Assyrian times the symbol of the kingdom is common to the empire, the state, the prince and at least two levels of authority, presumably in the Hellenistic period, authority is further divided into administrative, religious and armed authorities. From that time on, separate symbols also appear for these last two areas of authority, while the cross starts to symbolize administrative authority. How this new ordering of state symbols should have come about is currently only a matter of speculation.




A second symbol certainly has a martial meaning. It is the hexagram or Star of David.

The hexagram is said to be an ancient incantation symbol, one triangle of which would signify "water" and the other "fire." This much is certain that the hexagram is believed to have appeared on the shield of Israeli King David (1010-970) and that is why it appears on the Israeli flag. . [4])

The title of the figure as “Shield of David” or רּוֹרּ ךּגּמּ (“Magen David”) cannot be changed. David (1010-970) is known as one of the most belligerent kings of Israel. (I & II Samuel) and a martial meaning is therefore obvious. The hexagram can be regarded as a monogram of the first and last Greek letters of its name: Δ and Δ (from “Δ [αβι] Δ”) joined to form Y This assumption would place the origin of the hexagram in the Hellenistic era that began in Israel under Alexander the Great (336-323) and continued in the Ptolemy Empire (323-30 BC). Perhaps it is no coincidence that the symbol can also be explained as the doubling of the Moabite letter   or    which also has the sound value “d”.  [5] This would trace the origin of the symbol back to the time when Moab was part of the Israeli monarchy (1020-723). Most likely, however, the symbol dates from the times of the Hasmonean and Herodic dynasties (166 BC - 92 AD) because the kings of these dynasties had both Greek and Hebrew names and were thus highly Hellenized. For a long time, however, the Jews used both the Greek and the Latin alphabet, so that an even later origin is possible. The late appearance of the symbol also indicates this in itself a confirmation of the statement that the Star of David is a Greek monogram.YII Samuel) and a martial meaning is therefore obvious. [6])

The symbol has an unmistakable military significance and can thus be regarded as the symbol of the Jewish armed forces. This is thought to be so by various authors on the subject, although the opinion prevails that the symbol has a magical and cosmological meaning. The martial meaning does not exclude a magical meaning, nor the use that was later made of the symbol in various circumstances. Thus, the observation that the hexagram is a monogram of the name of David and is to be regarded as a symbol of war complements rather than contradicts the current theories about the "shield of David." As a result, neither a six-pointed star nor the pentagram can be seen as graphical variants of the hexagram. On the contrary, it concerns the images of the stars as celestial bodies in the same relationship to the sun as the provinces to the empire. [7] )Six-leaved flowers therefore do not qualify as variants of the Star of David. In the days of the diaspora there could of course not be a Jewish army, but there could be Jewish armed groups. For that reason, the symbol is usually applied to movable objects and there are no versions of it in which it is carried by angels. [8]) ) The symbol could be used by all those who accepted the Old Testament as a religious authority. It can therefore be found both as a symbol in the Jewish armed forces [9] ) and of the Christian and Islamic armed forces. Generally, however, Christianity after Constantine the Great favored the Christ monogram XP and Islam preferred the Sword of Islam, both of which have a similar meaning. This gave the hexagram, certainly in later times, a more exclusively Jewish character


The Menorah

While the cross moline can be interpreted as an administrative symbol and the Star of David as a martial symbol, the menorah or seven-lamp stand can also be seen as a religious symbol. As early as the 2nd millennium BC. spheres appear as symbols for stars. [10])  They are then arranged around another, larger sphere, which presumably represents the moon. In the Babylonian and Assyrian worlds, a group of seven stars (the Pleiades) was used as a symbol, perhaps for the “Seven Princes” who could be vassals or viceroys of Assyria. These “Seven Princes” are depicted on a rock relief in Maltai from the time of Senacherib (704-681) [11]) but also on a relief in the royal palace in Niniveh. [12]) ) from the time of Ashurbanipal (668-627). At that time (from 722 B.C.) Israel belonged to the Assyrian Empire. The reasoning then is that the candles symbolize the Pleiades and the seven viceroys, perhaps autonomous princes, of Assyria and that the menorah is thus the symbol of the "Seven Princes." Seen in this way, the menorah is a national symbol. [13])


Foto H.d.V. nov. ’94

Seven-lamp stand from the Temple of Jeruzalem

on the Triumphal arch of Titus   (79-81)

on the Forum Roamnum in Rome.


Regarding the menorah of the Triumphal Arch of Titus, the Encyclopaedia Judaica writes the following:

“The main testimony to the shape of the menorah in the Temple is the candlestick on the Triumphal Arch of Titus in Rome, which should be considered in connection with the description by Josephus. Only three sides of each octagon are visible. It has reliefs within a triple frame: in the top center are two opposing eagles with a deciduous crown in their beaks, in the other are different kinds of sea monsters. The top of the menorah is more or less in accordance with Biblical tradition and archaeological evidence.

The problem with the menorah on the Arch of Titus is the pedestal that consists of two octagonal parts. Although the dimensions are quite large, they do not make the reliability of the maker in question as this was a characteristic of the Roman and later the Christian artists. What makes this representation of the pedestal suspicious is that, according to Jewish sources and archaeological finds, the Menorah stood on three legs, usually on three lion's feet. These legs can be seen very well on the Nirim Mosaic (pictured).

Maon Synangogue, Mosaic


Symbol: Menorah

Supporters: Two lions passant


The bible speaks of the candlestick's yerekh) [14]) which Rashi explains as a three-legged plate and thus appears on a mural in Dura-Europos and perhaps on the coin of Mattathias Antigonus, the only ancient coin bearing a menorah. [15] However, the few surviving copies of this coin are poorly preserved and only one of them shows a short foot in addition to the plate.

This difference between the Arch of Titus and the other sources has given rise to a lively discussion that began with De Spoliis of Relandus (1716) arguing that, under the biblical prohibition on depicting animals, the pedestal of the menorah on the Arch of Titus could not be the original. In fact, as E. Cohn-Werner pointed out, there is a difference between the top and bottom of the menorah. The upper part, dating from the time of the later Hasmonean kings (40 BC - 44 AD), shows features of a late Hellenistic style, while the pedestal is typical of a later Roman style. Also important is the testimony of Josephus who must have seen the menorah many times, both in Jerusalem and in Rome, and which has proved reliable in this respect, for example through the excavations in Masada. Whether his description confirms or belies the authenticity of the menorah depends on the interpretation of his words. According to W. Eltester [16]) ), ό μέν γάρ μέσος ήν κιωνέκ της βάσεως πεπγώς should be translated as “the centerpiece stood firmly on the pedestal” which would be in accordance with the menorah on the Arch of Titus. Another interpretation is that the centerpiece “rose” from the pedestal and formed one whole with it. This would be consistent not only with Numbers 8: 4 but also with Josephus' statement preceding the above quote that these menorah were different from those in common use. These were composed of different parts. [17])

Several attempts have been made to solve the problem. Chief Rabbi Isaac Herzog, after listing all the other possibilities, suggested that the actual pedestal had been broken in the transport from Jerusalem to Rome and replaced by a Roman. Another hypothesis is that to be able to transport the menorah in the triumphal procession without accident, a Roman artist made a box-shaped pedestal to make it more stable. A third view is that the menorah of the Arch of Titus was made after another example, perhaps one given to Rome by Herod. Likewise, Josephus (Wars, 6: 388) relates that after the conquest of Jerusalem, a priest gave Titus “two candlesticks like those in the Temple”. The Talmud (Hag. 26b, 27Ş) also mentions duplicates and triplicates of all temple utensils in case the original pieces were desecrated. The Talmud of Jerusalem (Hag. 3: 8; 79d) and Tosephtha (Hag. 3:35) mention the cleaning of the menorah on Sabbath that aroused the laughter of the Sadducees. This would not have happened if it had been a duplicate, but at least it does not solve the problem of the Arch of Titus because the copy would have looked exactly like the original.

Although the menorah of Titus's Arch was well known - the Medieval pilgrim guide Mirabilis Urbis Romć mentions the arcus septem lucernarum - it was not recreated in the Late Imperial and Middle Ages. While church candelabras and manuscript images show animal claws, only one example of the Arch of Titus type is known: the Gothic candlestick in the Sta. Maria i Vulturella near Rome. [18]) ) ”



Regarding the discussion, it can be said that, even if it can be deduced from other and later depictions of the menorah, the Hellenistic-Roman pedestal certainly did not belong to the menorah in its original form but may, indeed, for the sake of stability during the period. transport, be later added to. The actual menorah from the temple then only consists of the top part, which must have been sufficiently stable for a permanent set-up in the temple.

However, we are not so much interested in the form that the candlestick must have had as in the function it fulfilled in the Jewish political system. It was suggested that the candlestick dates from the time when Palestine was part of a Mesopotamian Empire that conquered Israel in 722 and Judea in 586. This period, in which the area must have been ruled by stadholders or viceroys, lasted until 40 BC. when a sovereign Jewish state was founded again, which, incidentally, did not last long. Thus, it is likely that the symbols of Palestine belong to the Mesopotamian state symbolism that must have been used there for nearly 700 years and over 500 in Judea. On the other hand, the Egyptian influence is not to be underestimated because the first mention of the menorah occurs in Exodus that must have been placed in the Egyptian time (from the Ptolemies (323-30), Palestine was conquered by Egypt in 217). At this time, new state symbols must have been awarded by the Egyptian Pharaoh because Mesopotamian rule (which was continued by the Seleucids) then came to an end. The menorah is then a compromise between the old Mesopotamian and the new Egyptian tradition.

Exodus also describes other political symbols and institutions such as the ark, the table, and the tabernacle. In addition, a taxation or tribute was enacted (Exodus 25 1-7) and legislation was passed. This can hardly be explained other than that under Moses a constitutional arrangement was established in which the relationship between the ruler (in this case the Egyptian Pharaoh) and the Jews was regulated.

The arrangement in the temple can be explained by the worship to the administrative authority that took place in the temple and that was also customary in the surrounding countries in all kinds of other forms.  (H.d:V.)




Foto Jens Ziehe, Berlin.

Flag in the jewish national colors blue and white, with a star of david

Berlin, 1935. Cotton113 x 90,5 cm

Jüdisches Museum Berlin

Gift of Martin Fried-Lander


* One hypothesis may be that the candlestick dates back to Assyrian or Babylonian times. Israel at that time may have been one of the seven principalities represented in all forms in Assyrian symbolism. [19])  In the first place in the form of the “Seven Princes” depicted on a rock relief on the road from Assyria to the Valley of the Zab) [20]) but also by a group of seven stars in the shape of discs. These stars would then be represented by the lights of the candlestick. The princes themselves looked after administrative as well as religious and martial affairs that mainly amounted to the execution of the orders from Niniveh and the worship of the Assyrian king of kings. The pentagram or Solomon's Seal, because this symbol is of Egyptian origin, would date from the time of the Egyptian occupation and would refer to an Egyptian governor in Palestine.

An important moment in Israel's history must have been the wrestling out of Egyptian rule under Saul and David. From then on, the state of Israel can be regarded as a republic of which the supreme god in the form of the Egyptian Pharaoh was henceforth unnamed, a situation that could be maintained in Israel until the Assyrian conquest in 722 and in Judea until the Babylonian conquest in 586. Again, this situation was real under the Hasmonean monarchy that had broken free from the Hellenistic rule of the Ptolemies

In the Hasmonean period (116-37) the symbols of the Jewish state must have obtained their definitive form. The cross, originating from the Assyrian state symbolism, became the symbol of administrative authority, the seven-lamped candlestick the symbol of religious authority and the hexagram the symbol of armed authority. The sun can also be regarded here as a national symbol. The prominence that the Romans assigned to the seven-lamped candlestick may be related to the fact that in the Hasmonean state the authority was held several times by a high priest who did not bear the title of king. This was the case with Jonathan (high priest 152-143) and Hyrcanus II (high priest 67 and 63-47). Ultimately, in Titus's day, Jewish state authority was exercised only by the high priest since the other two areas of authority were already in the hands of the Romans. As may be assumed, some of the Jewish symbols have been adopted by the Christians who can be regarded as an important Jewish sect. They were formalized by Constantine the Great, who recognized Christianity as a religion and adopted the Christ monogram halfway through his career as a symbol of his military authority.

The hexagram did not disappear but was further used by some other Judeo-Christian groups. Most notable is its use by the Monophysite churches, and in particular in the Ethiopian Church, in which the symbol played an important role until the fall of Haile Selassie. As an offshoot of the same monotheistic tribe as Judaism and Christianity, the hexagram also occurs in an Islamic context, sometimes in combination with a crescent, sometimes also detached. [21]) )

In crystallizing the difference between Judaism and Christianity, different symbols for these sects also appear. In doing so, the Jews held on to the seven-armed candlestick while the Christians developed a new symbol in the shape of a Latin cross. Originally a Roman execution tool to which the condemned was nailed or bound until death, this cross appears in the second quarter of the fourth century in the vicinity of Emperor Constantine. Around the middle of the same century, parts of the cross on which Christ is said to have been executed were also "found" and around them an important and lucrative pilgrimage developed.



Just as the Latin cross was supportewd by angels, with which the institution of the Christian church was symbolized, so the menorah was also asupported by angels and should then symbolize the synagogue as an ecclesiastical institution. Depictions of the menorah held by angels have been found in the catacombs of Rome.


Full images (of the sarcophagus with the menorah and the angels) can be found in A. Konikoff, Sarcophagi, etc, H.J. Leon, Jews of Ancient Rome, Goodenough Jewish Symbols, vol 3. and in most books on ancient Jewish art (L. Rutgers)


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The Jewish Infantry Brigade Group more commonly known as the Jewish Brigade Group or Jewish Brigade, was a military formation of the British Army in World War II. It was formed in late 1944 and was recruited among Yishuv Jews from Mandatory Palestine and commanded by Anglo-Jewish officers. It served in the latter stages of the Italian Campaign, and was disbanded in 1946.

After the war, some members of the Brigade assisted Holocaust survivors to emigrate to Mandatory Palestine as part of Aliyah Bet, in defiance of British restrictions.




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© Hubert de Vries 2013-01-11; Updated 2021-01-05



[1]) That is to the  moabitic het and the  makkabeďc (Faulmann, Carl: Das Buch der Schrift.  Wien 1880/Nördlingen 1985 p. 78) by Cecchelli fig. 6 depicted as paleo-sinaďtic, north semitic and phoenician.

[2]) The greek letter “T” is called tau but is not at the end of the alfabet The Tau-cross is named after this letter in the form of the letter T. It would therefore have been more logical to call the equal-armed cross the Tau-cross and the T-cross the Greek cross instead of the other way around.

[3] ) Such a forehead cross is depicted on the Ratchis altar from the mid-8th century. Museo Christiano, Cividale. (Casartelli Attn. XXV)

[4] ) Oegema, Gerbern S.: The History of the Shield of David. Frankfurt a/Main, 1996.

[5] ) Faulmann, op.cit. 1985, p.78.

[6] ) The oldest example given by Oegema, Gerbern S .: The History of the Shield of David. Frankfurt a / Main, 1996, is a stone frieze from the synagogue of Kfar Nahum (Kafernaum) from the 2nd to 3rd century.

[7] In this way, the pentagram can be regarded as the symbol of Assyrian, Seleucid and Roman governors in Palestine rather than the "Solomon Seal."

[8] )  See also: Oegema, op.cit. 1996. Angels were also used in the Jewish world in the same sense as elsewhere. There is an image of a menorah, the symbol of Jewish religious authority, which is held by two angels. (Depicted in Rutgers, Leonard: Subterranean Rome.) Thus we now have the symbols of the armed and the religious authority and probably, in the form of the (Greek) cross, also the symbol of administrative authority

[9] ) The fact that the hexagram is mainly applied to movable objects, as Oegema mentions, is consistent with this. After the conquest of Jerusalem by Titus in 69 and the fall of the Herodian Dynasty, there could no longer be a Jewish army in Palestine, but only of armed Jewish groups.

[10] ) Op Babylonische zegels uit Kish en van de Kassitische dynastie. ( Iraq.

[11] ) Neatj Dahuk (43° O.L. 36° 50’ N.B. ca.) on theroad from Niniveh upstreaam the Great Zab (= Amadiyah).

[12] ) Coll. British Museum.

[13] ) Much later, the seven stars were also taken over by the Chinese emperors and are connected by lines on the Chinese imperial robe. It can also be deduced from all this that the stars were originally represented, at least in the Mesopotamian cultural area, as spheres or tokens. It wasn't until much later that the Egyptian pentagram-shaped star became common.

[14] ) Ex. 25:31 Thou shalt make a candlestick of pure gold; the candlestick shall be made of fine work, both the base and the shaft; the calyxes, with buds and blossoms, will form one whole with it. 32 And six arms shall protrude from its sides, three arms of the candlestick on one side, and three arms of the candlestick on the other side. 33 Three calyxes in the shape of almond blossom on one arm, with bud and blossom; and three calyxes in the shape of almond blossom on the other arm, with bud and blossom; thus for the six arms that protrude from the candlestick. 34 On the candlestick four calyxes in the shape of almond blossom, with its buds and blossoms. 35 Also a bud under the first pair of arms that come forth from him, and a bud under the second pair of arms that come forth from him, and a bud under the third pair of arms that come forth from him; (thus) by the six arms that protrude from the candlestick. 36 The buds and the arms will come forth from him, the whole being one driven work of pure gold. 37 You will make seven lamps for it, and they will put those lamps on them and let the light fall to the front. 38 Its tongs and cups will be of pure gold. 39 They shall make it of a talent of pure gold, with all these utensils. 40 See now that you make everything after the pattern that was shown to you on the mountain

[15] ) See also  S. Shefer (ed.), Enziklopediyah le-Inyenei ha-Mishkan….,1 (1965), 126ff.

[16] ) In Michel-Bauernfeinds editie van Josephus, Oorlogen, 2, 2, 1969.

[17] ) Plinius’ Natural History34, 6, 11.

[18] ) Zie bibliografie bij P. Bloch.

[19] ) Perhaps it concerns seven provinces or viceroyalties, perhaps seven vassals as well. (Babylon, Elam, Hatti, Mitanni, Assyria, Phenicia and Israel?)

[20]) Rock reliefs at Maltai, carved on the cliff-face on the southern side of the Dehok valley, by the road leading from Assyria to the Upper Zab valley. The assyrian king, probably Sennacherib (r. 704-681 bc), flanks a procession of seven deities on their animals, probably Aššur, Mulissu, Enlil or Sîn, Nabű, Šamaš, Adad and Ištar. On either side of the group are two Assyrian princes identified by their tiaras and sceptres. The other figures are dressed identically in a long cloak. They all have a cylindrical crown with a number of horn-shaped ridges on the front. A circle is placed on top or above it. In their left hand they carry a staff and a circle, except for the 6th and 7th which hold other objects. Two of the figures (the 2nd and 7th) are apparently women, the other five have long beards. The figures are resp. on a dragon and a horned lion, a lion, a lion with horns, a dragon, a horse, a bull and a horned lion and a bull. According to the theory, the viceroys are depicted from seven regions or tribes. Four of them, the 1st, 2nd, 4th and 6th, are also depicted on the Stele of Asarheddon and therefore should be the princes of the “Four Regions”. The symbols for the Babylonian Empire are absent, so the relief refers only to the Assyrian Empire. By the time of Sennacherib, Israel had been occupied by Assyria for more than 20 years.

[21] ). We should note that in the Islamic empires Christians often occupied high military positions

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