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Star of David

Magen David (Heb.)

Two equilateral triangles having the same center, but placed in opposite directions. Its earliest appearance on Jewish tombstones can be dated back to the seventh century B.C.E. Invested with mystical meaning, the symbol was used in ancient and modern times by Jews and non-Jews in the Mediterranean area as well as in Europe.

In the early middle ages Jewish scholars gave the name Shield of David to the symbol, trying to express their faith in the saving power of God through the image of a shield and the allusion to the sacred kingship of David (Gen. 15:1, Ps. 18:36). Subsequently Kabbalists interpreted the symbol, printers used it as book marks, and it appeared even in the rare Jewish flags granted by special privilege to certain Jewish ghettoes. In more modern times the need for a simple and striking sign, setting Jews apart for other religions, became felt. The Star of David appeared more frequently on synagogue buildings, on religious objects, and on the seals of Jewish organizations.

The First Zionist Congress in 1896 adopted the Star of David as the symbol of the movement of return to the ancient land of Israel. The Star of David was used by the Nazis as a "badge of shame" every Jew had to wear prior to deportation and mass murder. Expressing the feelings of hope and re-assurance, the State of Israel in 1948 placed the sign on its flag. [W.B.]

Last modified: Wednesday, 27-Apr-2005 14:14:53 EDT
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