The star of David, or in Hebrew ‘Magan David’ (shield of David), is associated today with Judaism and Israel. But, contrary to popular knowledge, the symbol is not the oldest image of the nation. In fact, the six-pointed star was initially used by the Jews to decorate their buildings and their books.
The Star of David
One book, for example, is the Leningrad Codex. The hexagram appeared on the front cover of the oldest complete copy of the Hebrew Bible dated 1008. Its Hebrew translation, ‘Magan David’ or shield of David, referred to the God of Israel who shielded and gave divine protection to King David.
But, it was only in the 19th century that the Jews began to use the star as a religious symbol. To differentiate themselves from the Christian communities, European Jews integrated the star in their synagogues. Historian Alec Mishory said, “Jews needed a symbol of Judaism parallel to the cross, the universal symbol of Christianity. In particular, they wanted something to adorn the walls of the modern Jewish house of worship that would be symbolic like the cross.”
Moreover, the star further gained international prominence when the Zionist movement adopted the symbol at its 1897 Congress. At that time, it became the symbol of the Jewish people.
However, during the Holocaust, the Nazis tried to pervert the significance of the six-pointed star by forcing the Jews to wear them on their clothes as a mark for persecution. Nevertheless, it only embedded deeper in their identity.
And in 1948, the State of Israel was formed and emerged with its national flag designed with the blue star. The Star of David officially became a symbol not just of the Jews, but of the nation of Israel.
But, do you know that there is another symbol that the Jews used to represent their faith? For thousands of years, they used the menorah, the seven-armed candelabrum. Although it is no longer popular as it was before, it is still used as the official emblem of Israel and appears on the back of the 10-agorot coin.