Let’s Talk Symbols

About a year ago I travelled to South Africa, to take part in a volunteering program with monkeys. When we made our way back, everyone to their homes, we sat in the small airport and had our last chats. One of the girls in the program was French. She was holding on to her reddish passport, which had a strange golden symbol on it. 

“What does that symbol mean?” I asked her. She looked down at her passport and then replied: “I don’t know.”

“I’m asking because I know that the symbol on my passport means something,” I said.

“Yeah? What does it mean?”

“It’s the symbol of the State of Israel,” I replied, “There’s the Menorah, the ancient lamp of the Holy Temple, in the center and on both sides of it are two olive branches. The olive branches are a symbol of peace.”

Later on, I discovered that the olive branches are mentioned in the Zechariah Book of the Bible, along with the Menorah, in the same phrasing. Apparently, the people who designed the symbol also chose the olive branches because the Menorah was enlightened by olive oil. 

State of Israel Symbol

I like symbols. They are very simple, but have a lot of stories behind them. A few days ago, in class, I found out for the first time that the symbol of the New Israeli Shekel (₪) also has a meaning behind it. I was astonished to find out that the symbol was a merge of “Shekel” (שקל) and “New” (חדש). Pay attention to the first letters of those two words – ש (Shin) and ח (Chet) and take a look at the New Israeli Shekel symbol, right to left. It’s a Shin and a Chet put one upon of the other!

I drew you an explanation of the Israeli New Shekel symbol

Another important symbol is the Magen David, “Star of David”, that appears on our Israeli flag. For those of you who wondered, the two blue stripes on the flag represent the Talit, the Jewish prayer shawl, that tradionally had blue stripes on it. And back to the Magen David: No one is sure where it really came from. There are some hypotheses. Some say it looks like King David’s signature and that’s why it’s called after David. In the Ancient Hebrew script, the letter ד (D) is shaped like a triangle and the Star of David is made from two triangles, one upon the other.

The Flag of Israel

And that’s all for today. Sorry I haven’t been here for almost two weeks! The University has started here in Israel and it was a crazy week! I hope that next time I will give you some info on cheap places to eat in the Old City of Jerusalem.

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