The Historama
Alex Ben-Arieh
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Tel Aviv, Israel 61321
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Israeli Militaria Primer: Flags, Colors and Standards


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Flags, Colors and Standards

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I've assembled this page by request, which means that even though eventually it would be set up, I'm presenting it before it's properly written in order to illustrate some examples of Israeli military and civic flags, banners, standards and colors in history.

Photo: Hadeni, p. 79 Two Zionist activists, Joseph Trumpeldor and Vladimir (Ze'ev) Jabotinsky, were influential in the creation of all-Jewish combat units of the British Army in the First World War. Both directly enabled the foundation of the Zion Mule Corps in 1915, which served in Gallipoli, and Jabotinsky in particular led the drive for the creation of Jewish battalions in the British Army. These battalions - the 38th, 39th and 40th Royal Fusiliers - are collectively known as the Jewish Legion. In this picture, Jabotinsky with crossed armed is seated in the second row, just above the right corner of the flag. The flag here is of the 16th platoon of the London Battalion, in training, which would shortly become part of the 38th Royal Fusiliers; it incorporates the Jewish Star of David surmounting the British Union Jack - a constant symbol of this era's British-affiliated Jewish armed formations.

Photo: Ziv & Gelber, p. 41 A supporter's armband for the Jewish Legion (in Hebrew at top it says "The Hebrew Battalion") from 1917-1918, with that era's Zionist motif - a Star of David with the word "Zion" ('Tziyon') in Hebrew located in the center.

Photo: Hadeni, p. 105 The Jewish Legion of the First World War consisted of three battalions: one from British volunteers (the 38th Royal Fusiliers), another of North American volunteers (the 39th) and a third one of volunteers from Eretz Israel-Palestine (the 40th). Seen here is Dr. Chaim Weizman, the head of the British Admiralty laboratories, a leading Zionist figure instrumental in the drafting of the Balfour Declaration (1917) and future first President of Israel presenting the colors of the 40th Battalion to its members, 1918. The picture is not clear, but it looks like a triangular standard with a lion within a Star of David; the British Union Jack on the top right and a Hebrew legend just above the Star, which is not clear. A frequent legend in Legion regalia is "In Blood and Fire Judea Fell, In Blood and Fire Judea Will Rise", although the few clear letters in this picture suggest that the slogan may be different.

Photo: Hadeni, p. 139 A picture of a "Hashomer" society flag being given to Hashomer volunteers serving in the 40th (Eretz Israel) battalion Royal Fusiliers of the Jewish Legion, 1918. "Hashomer" ("The Watchman") was a self-defense movement founded by Jewish settlers in Palestine in 1909 and outlawed by the Ottoman Turkish authorities during the First World War. The banner here depicts the British Union Jack (reflecting the Legion's British auspcies), and beneath it the Hebrew word for "Hashomer" surmounted above and below by the legend "In Blood and Fire Judea Fell" and "In Blood and Fire Judea Will Rise".

Photo: Hadeni, p. 157 The Jewish Legion was disbanded after World War I, in 1919, but succeeded by another all-Jewish Eretz-Israel formation called the "First Judean Battalion". It existed from 1919 to 1921 and included former Legion members, particularly from the Eretz-Israel 40th battalion. Seen in this photo of a prayer ceremony is the Battalion's colors: a British Union Jack on the top right corner and a blue Star of David in the center, on a white background.

Photo: Hadeni, p. 376 Another view of the flag of the "First Judean Battalion", this time during a veterans' march in 1943. During the Second World War the veterans movement as a whole was actively involved in promoting Jewish volunteerism from Eretz Israel in the war effort, and this picture was taken during one such support march.

Photo: Ziv & Gelber, p. 113 The Jewish Brigade Group (or "Fighting Hebrew Battalion" - in Israeli parlance) was a unit of the British Army, formed in September 1944 during the Second World War and fought in northern Italy. After the war it was transferred to Belgium. This picture shows the Zionist flag flying at the Brigade's Belgian headquarters in 1945.

Photo: Hadeni, p. 482 Around 1946 veterans of the Jewish Brigade Group established the "Soldiers' Forest" ('Ya'ar Ha'Khayal') in Jerusalem. At the dedication ceremony a large size banner of the Jewish Brigade emblem was laid, with a black ribbon to symbolize the soldiers who lost their lives in the war. The simple placard says "Named After the Fallen of the F.H.B [Fighting Hebrew Battalion, i.e. the Jewish Brigade Group] Blessed be their Memory". The formation emblem was a square representation of the Zionist/Israeli flag (blue-white-blue stripes) with a yellow/golden Star of David superimposed on top.

Photo: Ziv & Gelber, p. 170 This is the flag which flew on board an arms ship called the "Altalena", supplied and manned by the rightist "Irgun / Etzel" (National Military Organization) pre-State underground movement of the future Prime Minister, Menachem Begin. The ship approached Israeli waters in June 1948, but the transitional government under David Ben-Gurion feared that the arms were being transported to assist the Irgun to overthrow the government. During a confrontation between the nascent Israel Defense Forces and Irgun members on the ship (including Begin), the ship was shelled and sunk.

Photo: Ziv & Gelber, p. 192 Avraham ("Bren") Adan, commander of the IDF 'Negev Brigade' raises a hastily created ink-made Israeli flag over Umm Rash Rash (which in the near future would become the port city of Eilat), 1949. Unlike the regular Israeli national flag, this one had a filled in blue Star of David (the usual design shows only the blue frame of the Star).

Photo: Ziv & Gelber, p. 196 An Israeli army military parade around 1949-50, in which the flag of the three main regional commands are visible on each of the three jeeps: Southern Command ('Pikud Darom'; left), Central Command ('Pikud Mercaz'; center) and Northern Command ('Pikud Tzafon'; right).

Photo: Ziv & Gelber, p. 347 Egyptian President Anwar Sadat passes by an Israeli military honor guard during his historic 1977 visit to Israel. Visible here are the standards of Artillery Corps (far left), Nachal (soldier-pioneer) Brigade (second from right) and the Armored Corps (far right).

Photo: Ziv & Gelber, p. 366 A Lebanese national flag taken as a token by IDF soldiers during the Israeli "Peace for Galilee" military campaign of 1982. On it is written in Hebrew "Lebanon does not believe in tears".