Last week's edition of the paper, Haverim ("Friends"), which accompanies the haredi weekly Bakehila (In the Community), included a feature focusing on the appearance, history and traditional use of flags from across the globe. The edge of the Israeli flag is shown on the article's first page, buried in a pile of banners from dozens of countries.
Cypriot flag got special mention
The feature explained that the 13 stripes on the American flag represent the original 13 colonies that settled the country and eventually declared independence from Britain, and that the stars represents the number of states in the union. The green background of the Brazilian flag, the author wrote, represents the rain forests; the gold represents the the South American country's precious metal and the 27 stars represent its number of states.
Soviet Union flag mentioned
The article even displayed the Soviet Union's flag, explaining that the hammer and sickle stand for the working class. Libya, Cyprus, Japan and the United Nations got special attention as well.
The author also described the ceremonial uses of the flags, saying that they are "displayed on top of state institutions, like courts, parliamentary buildings and police stations. Occasionally, we hear that a country has lowered its flag to half-mast." Eluding the symbolism of being published on Memorial Day, the Israeli flag got no mention.
US flag in, Israeli flag out
Bakehila is not affiliated with any haredi movement. Like other media outlets in the ultra-Orthodox community, a committee of religious experts oversees its content; it appears as though Israel's white-and-blue banner raised a red flag among the editors.
"A supposedly moderate newspaper's exclusion of the flag is disgraceful and parallels some haredim's habit of dishonoring the Memorial Day siren," said Rabbi Uri Regev, who heads Hiddush, an organization that promotes religious freedom.
"Especially on the eve of Independence Day, the editors chose to thoroughly review the significance of every possible flag – including the lifeguard's banner – but to ignore the white and blue flag.
"This is another proof that the core educational program, which includes civics and history studies, must be imposed on the ultra-Orthodox educational system, in order to make sure that haredi children also learn the real story behind the foundation of the state and its symbols, instead of growing up in a reality that boycotts the state."