As far back as the 17th century the children in Ashkenazi communities would come to the synagogue on Simchat Torah night waving flags. The Simchat Torah flags were part of a popular material culture of paper products such as Uzrach hangings, marking the east as the direction for prayer, and paper cutouts. Along with the homemade flags, paper flags were printed with images of traditional Jews and included pictures expressing the Sukkot and Simchat Torah holiday experience.
Eretz Israel, 1930's
In the early 20th century these flags beganfeaturing Zionist motifs which vvere incorporated into the traditional look. "For the Torah shall come forth from Zion and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem" was printed as the title of the holiday flag printed here in Eretz Israel in the 1930's. At the center of the flag stands the Holy Ark with images of Moses and Aharon leaning on it, and in front the four sacred animals who express "bold as a tiger, and light as an eagle, and runs like a gazelle and brave as a lion to fulfill the will of the Father in Heaven". On the left stand three children, one of whom was characterized as a Yemenite youth with curly sidelocks — a biblical symbol updated for the modern Return to Zion. On the right stands a European boy wearing a cap and holding a blue and white flag, with the symbol of the "Maccabi" sports club on his shirt — an expression of the new Jew, the muscular man who rejuvenates the legacy of the Maccabees.
In the 1950's the European tradition of decorating became the tradition among Jews from all ethnic groups. The yearning for the Tomb of Rachel and for the Western Wall became the scenes that decorated the Holy Ark — two cardboard doors, through which one could usually see a picture of Torah scrolls. A group of boys and girls who were stooped over the Torah emphasized the essence of the equal Israeli ethos, which suited most of the Israeli public.
The victory in the Six-Day War in 1967 presented and emphasized Simchat Torah in the image of the IDF as a savior. "Rejoice and be joyful on Simchat Torah" in the form of IDF soldiers carrying Torah scrolls and dancing around the Holy Ark. The people's love for their soldiers, their adored heroes became the essence of the flag's look.
Dr. Haim Grossman
Researcher of Israeli Culture