November 7, 2008
Looking upon the flag
"Ure'item oto uzechartem."
"Looking upon it, you will be reminded."
When I traveled to Poland last year with the Poland-Israel Seminar of Camp Ramah, I saw more Israeli flags than Polish flags. The blue-and-white fabric seemed to blossom freely out of ashes. The symbol of Israel's independence, struggle and survival now whips in the winds that blow through the crematoria of Auschwitz; the Shield of David now confronts the grown-over death pits of Tykocin. The flag stands as sentry, guarding our memories in order to protect our future. And in a very different place and time, in a separate universe of freedom, security, comfort and happiness, we raise the flag of Israel over the Israeli Consulate. Our city and community, our region and all its peoples are protected by this declaration of Israeli presence and conscience.
"Ure'item oto." Looking upon it, you will be reminded of connection. Deep within the blue intertwined triangles that form the Magen David is the symbol of connection. The flag is like a tallit. The tallit envelops us in a physical connection to God and to the Jewish people. So too is the Israeli Flag a constant reminder of our connection with the land of Israel. In fact, David Wolfsohn, the friend and successor to Theodore Herzl, said at the birth of the Zionist flag, "We have a flag -- and it is blue and white. The tallit that we wrap ourselves in when we pray: that is our symbol. Let us take this tallit from its bag and unroll it before the eyes of Israel and the eyes of all nations." Every time a Jew sees this flag flying here, high over Wilshire Boulevard, he/she will be reminded of that connection. And the place in which we raise this flag symbolizes the steadfast and magnificent connection between Israel and this great nation, the United States of America. As we raise this flag, let us celebrate this bond of brothers and work to support and strengthen it.
"Ure'item oto." Looking upon it, you will be reminded of responsibility. Deep within the blue, rigidly spaced stripes are symbols of responsibility. We as Americans and as Israelis in America have a responsibility, a duty that this flag represents and reminds us of. We must support Israel in every way. We do not always need to agree with its actions, but we must at least recognize the significance of its existence. It is because of Israel that this flag can wave freely at Auschwitz.
"Ure'item oto." Looking upon it, you will be reminded of hope. The background, the canvas on which our star and stripes are set, is plain and white, a symbol of hope. Though darkness fills our world with the constant threat of utter annihilation, the pureness of the flag's white emboldens us to hope. This too is a responsibility of sorts. We must carry on our ancestors' tradition of hope. Hope is in our blood, in our song and in our flag. Remember "Hatikvah," the hope, for survival, peace and happiness. We will continue to survive with the hope that is embodied in the flag of Israel.
Just as the tallit comforts us in its protection, the flag represents the protection that Israel provides for the Jewish people against the harm of hatred, persecution, lawlessness and homelessness. Just as we wrap the four corners of our tallit together on our finger in preparation for the Shema, our rallying declaration of faith, so too does the flag gather Jews around the world to a singular place and a unique promise. The flag is not holy. But the meanings of it are holy.
"Ure'item oto uzechartem." Look upon it and be reminded. Blue and White. Kachol v'Lavan. Star and Stripes. Connection. Responsibility. The hope of a nation for the welfare of its people and the world. Herzl said, "With a flag to help, you lead people wherever you want, even to the Promised Land. For the sake of a flag, the people live, and for it they die." Am Yisrael chai! The State of Israel lives!
Sammy Schatz is a senior at Milken Community High School.
Tribe, a page by and for teens, appears the first issue of every month in The Jewish Journal. Ninth- to 12th-graders are invited to submit first-person columns, feature articles or news stories of up to 800 words. Deadline for the December issue is Nov. 15; deadline for the January issue is Dec. 15. Send submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org.