In the midst of Israel’s most contentious identity crisis in decades, earlier this summer Jerusalem Design Week 2018 released a variety of illustrations imagining what a unified Israeli-Palestinian flag would look like, despite that dream looking farther away than ever.
President Trump’s decision to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem triggered a wave of protests in late spring. For many, the embassy’s relocation infringed on the delicate balance Jerusalem maintains between Israeli and Palestinian Occupied Territories. In a deft move of political gamesmanship, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (who has become the subject of speculation related to several corruption investigations) has pushed his right-wing agenda through the country’s parliament with relative ease. In July, a shocking “nation-state” law made its way through the legislative body. Among other things, the law states that self-determination in Israel is unique to the Jewish people; Hebrew is Israel’s official language while Arabic is downgraded to special status; and that Jewish settlements have national value worth developing. Some are calling the nation-state law defining moment in the country’s history. Others are calling it apartheid.
Funded by The Ministry of Jerusalem and Heritage and the Jerusalem Development Authority, the seven-day design festival spanned four locations around Jerusalem. Part of the festival, the flag exhibition occurred at Alliance House, a space for young creatives in the city.
There are five essential tenets of flag design that most people accept. Flags should be simple with only two or three basic colors; there should be no letting or seals while still maintaining meaningful symbolism and a distinct look. It’s hard to say if everyone in Jerusalem got the message, what with some flags bearing cramped, esoteric iconography, and a rainbow assortment of colors.
The one I’m referring to here Is Noam Noy’s expression of cyclical fear, hatred, and bloodshed. Wreaths of flowers sit in a pool of blood as armies of militiamen hunt unarmed civilians through cypress trees. a man falls dead under a palm tree, bathed in a red puddle. The flag’s border is a mix of rectangles and triangles, all filled reds, blues, greens, pinks, and purples.
Similarly crowded, but with a bit more abstraction and finesse is Studio Re-Levant’s optimistic design, which combines 36 utopian flags as one unified international symbol. All esoteric in their designs, there are several symbols that repeatedly appear on this single flag: suns rising, sprawling mountains, voluptuous clouds. There’s even a massive heart. (A little too on the nose, no?)
One of the most overtly political flags is Nawal Arafat’s geographical take on Israeli territory. Arafat sketches and organizes Palestinian cities and territories, placing them in enclaves that form the scant outline of a divided country. The bottom of his flag-map is freckled with dots, presumably a reference to the numerous settlements in the south. Viewers should also note the blue-and-white color theme, which bathes the Palestinian territories in the Israeli colors.
The boldest and (dare I say?) most realistic attempt of the bunch is Ohad Hadad’s Israeli-Palestinian combo flag [posted at the top of this post], which foregrounds the white silhouette of the Star of David on a backdrop segmented into the colors of the Palestinian flag. A critic of Hadad’s work would doubtlessly say that he has failed to equally privilege both halves of the whole by foregrounding the Star of David. On the other hand, there are clear attempts to balance things out. The blue of the Israeli flag is given only a fourth of the background, sharing space with the three Palestinian colors. The Star of David is rendered all-white: Is it a symbol of contrition here? Atonement? Hadad is trying his best to forge a relationship of equality in a country where there currently is none.