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Municipality of Jerusalem (Israel)

Iriyat Yerushalayyim, al-Quds

Last modified: 2003-01-18 by santiago dotor
Keywords: jerusalem | israel | yerushalayyim | iriyat yerushalayyim | al-quds | coat of arms (lion: blue) | text: hebrew (blue) |
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[Municipality of Jerusalem (Israel)] 8:11
by Zeljko Heimer, modified by Santiago Dotor
Coat-of-arms adopted 13th November 1958

See also:


The lion (...) is the symbol of Yehuda (Judah) Tribe.

Dov Gutterman, 18 November 1998

I have lived in Jerusalem, a few blocks away from City Hall, for a number of years. The charge and its inscription are yellow (or gold) and blue (or "indigo"), like the two horizontal stripes, and definitely not black. The inscription is merely the city's name in Hebrew.

The brickwork pattern represents the Kotel or Western Wall (of the Temple Mount). The fructed olive branches are, as in the national emblem and presidential standard, indicative of peace and goodwill. Yellow and white are said to represent the gold and silver vessels used in the Holy Temple of King Solomon on Mount Moriah. The color blue presumably symbolizes the tekhelet, a special dye used for tsitsiyot (fringes or tassels) on the talit (prayer shawl) and beged shel arba kanfot (four-cornered garment). There are other valid interpretations as well.

I am afraid that, for the moment, the source of this explanation is no better than the common knowledge. This does not necessarily make it hearsay, though. I suppose that just about any Jerusalemite who would claim to know the flag's significance will give the same reckoning I did. In truth, I have no doubt one could find any number of glossy coffee-table editions available in Jerusalem bookstores to corroborate that account, but if you were to question the authors, they would likely give you the same source I just did. In any event, the interpretation is not, to my knowledge, in dispute. There may well be some circles who find its symbolism somehow objectionable and offer substitutes of their own invention. So far as the actual devices on the flag are concerned, I can say that a careful examination of the wall in the flag will show that it is identical to the Western Wall. Yes, there is a unique pattern to the bricks.

M. Breier, 18-20 June 1999

The Jerusalem emblem was adopted in 1949 following an official competition, similar to the one for the national flag and emblem. A few years ago the City Gallery of Jerusalem (a fancy name for a one-room gallery near the City Hall) held an exhibition on the subject, showing some of the proposals. They also published a booklet, which I was lucky to obtain but since traded it and kept only a photocopy. The information there supports the explanation given by M. Breier.

Among the 1949 proposals there was one that was a truly heraldic achievement: a shield with the five Crusader crosses, lions as supporters and a lion crest. Also a motto in Latin — Nisi Dominus Custodierit Civitatem. The booklet claims that this proposal, by Ronald Bretton of Halifax, England, is an expression of the symbolic meaning of Jerusalem as a Holy City for all three religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam). They say that the lions are the Lions of Judea. I disagree — lions are very common in heraldry, and even if this is the Lion of Judea, where is the Moslem element? This proposal made me laugh — it shows that the artist had a good knowledge of heraldry and history — and lack of any knowledge at all about modern Jerusalem, offering a Christian symbol to a Jewish city (in 1949 Jerusalem was divided so the emblem was for the Jewish part only). Heraldically, it is impressive — I have seen the original at the City Archives.

Nahum Shereshevsky, 26 June 1999

The municipal emblem was published in the official gazette (Rashumot), YP 633, 13 November 1958.

Dov Gutterman, 4 September 2001

Vertical variant

[Jerusalem (Israel), vertical variant]
by Zeljko Heimer and Santiago Dotor

The Jerusalem flag also appears in a semi-official celebratory version, taller than it is wide, with the shield between two vertical stripes.

M. Breier, 20 June 1999

I think the proportions are wrong. Jerusalem flag is really an "emblem on national flag" and Israeli vertical national flags are not 8:11 as the horizontal one but 1:3 and more. If you want the GIF being proportional then it should have a smaller emblem and thinner stripes.

Dov Gutterman, 23 June 1999

The GIF looks right in every detail, except these things typically (though not necessarily) are much, much longer. Also, I must reiterate, that as far as I know, they may have no more official status than decorative party favours. I feel obliged to report their existence chiefly because they are so commonplace. Whether they have ever been formally recognized and quantified – I do not know. I can say that I have found them hanging on the walls of City Hall itself, so that is probably a strong indicator that it receives, at least, tacit approval.

When it appears in the short form (1:3?), a typical display is flying it paired, side-by-side, with top and bottom edges run through with rods fastened to either side of a pole. In such a manner, it is held erect throughout display, irrespective of wind conditions. I'm sure there must be an obscure technical term for this type of arrangement, perhaps a true vexillum? When so displayed, it is as often from a streetlamp, telephone pole etc. as it is from a proper flagpole.

M. Breier, 24 June 1999