Sunday, January 29, 2006

Hamas demands Israel change its flag

Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz told the Israeli cabinet that Hamas seemed to be "acting responsibly". Within an hour or so of this erroneous statement, Hamas' Grand Mufti Ayatollah Sheikh Vizier al Bul Bul Emir, or whatever title he's hefting these days, Mahmoud Zahar, said,
"Israel must remove the two blue stripes from its national flag. The stripes on the flag are symbols of occupation. They signify Israel's borders stretching from the River Euphrates to the River Nile."
Well, the blue stripes on Israel's flag may mean that to him, but not to the Israelis nor to any Jew. If Grand Mufti Ayatollah Sheikh Vizier al Bul Bul Emir Mahmoud could read, which is doubtful, or could access the internet, which is even more doubtful, he might learn the following:

The Israeli flag depicts two blue stripes as are found on some tallit, or Jewish prayer shawls, with the Magen David, or Star of David, between them. Basically, the Israeli flag is a Jewish prayer shawl with the Magen David stuck on it.

The tallit, or tallis, is the Jewish prayer shawl. It is white overall with blue or black stripes towards either end. There is no "official" Jewish tallit as far as overall size or the color of the stripes are concerned except that it must be big enough to wrap around the shoulders, like a shawl, and not just around the neck like a scarf - that would be a no-no. The fringes, called tzitzit, at each corner of the tallit, however, are quite another matter as are the rules for wear and care of the tallit itself. The requirements for the tzitzit are quite strict. You may look that one up yourself. We are concerned about the blue stripes on the flag.

Let's take a brief timeout to address the Magen David. King David had no Star of David. The Magen David is relatively modern. Relative, of course, to the 5000 year history of the Jews. In fact, Jewish scholars instantly consider ancient "discoveries" which depict the Magen David to be forgeries. Some say that the Magen David depicts the shape of David's shield or perhaps the symbol on it, but there is little evidence to support this. The two interwoven triangles were a common symbol of good luck in that part of the world in ancient times and indeed still are today and depictions of images much like the Magen David are found in artifacts from many civilizations from the area.

As for the stripes on the tallit and the Israeli flag, the tallit stripes are simply Jewish tradition. The blue threads in the tzitzit (fringes, remember) are, again, quite another matter. Jewish tallit can have black stripes, gray stripes, blue stripes, gold or silver accent stripes, whatever you'd like. The tallit in reality only exists as a place to put the tzitzit. That's because the Positive Mitzvah #14 requires that a tzitzit be at all four corners of every four-cornered garmet, which most garments used to be. Take a look in your wardrobe and tell me how many four-cornered garments you own. Probably none, right? So, in modern times, in order to fulfill the Tzitzit requirement, the Jews have to have a tallit. Ultra Orthodox Jews, and some other very observant Jews, have a special poncho-like tallit that they wear under their shirts at all times so that the tzitzit are always exposed. I have never seen one but I would guess that the shirts must be specially designed also. Most Jews just wrap the tallit around their shoulders at prayer.

The blue die (Jews say, "techailet") used in ancient times came from the blood of a very rare mediterranean snail which the Jews called a chilazon. That snail has probably long ago disappeared. The blue die from these snails was so rare even in olden days that it was as valuable as gold. The Romans forbade common people from wearing anything with blue in it. That color was reserved for royalty. So the Jews had to forsake their requirement for techailet and many substituted black, kind of like a sign of mourning, I guess. Some Jews believe that the chilazon will return come judgement day.

In any event, the blue stripes in the tallit don't mean much of anything and the same blue stripes on the Israeli flag mean just as much. That is to say, not much. Caution, don't get the tallit and the tzitzit confused. The tzitzit is of vital importance to the Jewish religion and, as I stated earlier, the rules concerning tzitzit are complex and strict.

I think that the Grand Mufti Ayatollah Sheikh Vizier al Bul Bul Emir Mahmoud Zahar has a good point. The Israelis should change their flag. They should put four stripes around the Magen David, enclosing it in a box. The stripes should all be the color crimson. That would signify that stepping on the Magen David would cause the sand to run red with the blood of the Palestinians, Iranians, Syrians, Lebanese, Hamas, Hizbollah, Fatah, Muslim Brotherhood, al Qaeda and anyone else who would like to try.

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