Star of David


Today, the Star of David is a ubiquitous Jewish symbol. However, this widespread use is a relatively recent development. In fact, if you asked King David about the star that bears his name, he’d probably have no idea what you were talking about.

In the times of the Temple, rather than a star, the Jewish people were represented by the icon of a menorah, symbolizing Temple worship. The first recorded appearance of the star was on a stone in a 4th-century synagogue in the Galilee region of Israel. It appeared on the famous Leningrad Codex–the oldest complete manuscript of the Hebrew Bible–which dates from around 1000 CE. But the star didn’t regularly appear in Jewish art until the 17th century, when it spread quickly as a symbol to identify Jewish neighborhoods and synagogues. The six-pointed star wasn’t always exclusive to Jews–it’s also been used in other cultures–in pagan art, for instance, and as a feature of Satanic rituals.

During the Holocaust, Jews were forced to wear six-pointed stars identifying themselves as Jews. Today, however, the star has been appropriated for several positive meanings–for the Israeli flag, for Magen David Adom (the Israeli version of Red Cross), and simply to signify that something’s Jewish. A recent Internet meme illustrates (right) that each letter of the Hebrew alphabet can be traced out in its formative lines. That’s probably not what the originators of the star had in mind–whoever they were–but, regardless, it’s a cool parlor trick.


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