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Civil Ensign (Israel)

Degel Tzi Ha'Soher

Last modified: 2023-12-02 by martin karner
Keywords: star: 6 points (blue outlined) | oval (white) | law | construction sheet |
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[Civil Ensign (Israel)] 2:3
image by Željko Heimer
Flag adopted 19 May 1948

See also:


Blue flag with a white vertically elongated oval set near the hoist containing an also vertically elongated blue Magen David. Proportions 2:3.
Željko Heimer, 1 April 1996 and 7 February 2002

Flag Legislation

Flag Ordinance 1948

The civil ensign of Israel – or as originally called, the flag of the merchant fleet – was adopted on 19 May 1948, only 5 days after the Declaration of Independence, well before the national flag which was officially adopted only in October. Its adoption was by an Ordinance of the Provisional Council of State which was published on official gazzette no. 2, supp. A, 21 May 1948. This is my translation (notes in brackets):

Pkudat Oniyot (Leumiut ve-Degel)
mispar 3 le-shmat TASHAH – 1948

(Ships Ordinance (Nationality and Flag)
number 3 of year 5708 – 1948) Ordenance which determines to which ships will have the nationality of the state of Israel and what will be the flag of those ships.

The Provisional Council of State hereby enact as follows: (...)
3 (a) Every ship which is registered in the State of Israel is entitled and obligated to hoist the flag of the merchant fleet of the State of Israel.
(b) The flag of the merchant fleet of the State of Israel is as drawn and described hereby:
The flag is 180 cm long and 120 cm wide, its background is dark azure [Tkhelet Ke'he – blue in Hebrew is Kahol] with a white oval placed 15 cm from top, bottom and hoist. The oval is 90 cm in its long axis and 60 cm in the short axis. In its middle is a Magen David made of six azure [Tkhelet] lines, 3 cm wide, which combined make two triangles whose bases are parallel to the horizontal sides of the flag. The base of each triangle is 30 cm and each of its sides is 45 cm.
10 Ayar 5708 (19 May 1948)
(-) David Ben-Gurion, Prime Minister
(-) Felix Rosenblitt, Minister of Justice

This Ordenance was in force until 1960 when it was abolished and replaced by the Maritime Act (Vessels) 5720-1960 (adopted August 14, 1960) which includes the same description. As I already noted, by comparing this description with the descriptions of the national flag and the naval ensign, the use of 'dark azure' in one place and only 'azure' in another, does not imply different colours but the same colour.

Dov Gutterman, 11 October 2001

The 1948 proclamation about the national flag uses Tkhelet Ke'he (dark azure) for the stripes and Tkhelet (azure) for the Magen David even though both are the same colour, I checked again the appendix of section 86 of the Maritime Act (Vessels) 5720-1960 - only to find out that the same words are used there too. I made some telephone inquiries, with the same conclusion: there is only one shade of blue in the civil ensign.
Dov Gutterman, 23 August 2001

Maritime Act 1960

Here is my translation, my comments in brackets:

Maritime Act (Vessels) 5720-1960 [adopted August 14, 1960]
Section 86
The flag is 180 cm long and 120 cm wide, its background is dark azure [Tkhelet Ke'he] with a white oval placed 15 cm from top, bottom and hoist. The oval is 90 cm in its long axis and 60 cm in the short axis. In its middle is a Magen David made of six azure [Tkhelet] stripes, 3 cm wide, which combined make two triangles whose bases are parallel to the horizontal sides of the flag. Each triangle's base is 30 cm and each one of its sides is 45 cm.

Dov Gutterman, 15 September 1998

As it is the "Israli Merchant Fleet Flag" by law, it is supposed to be used only by ships registered in Israel and the courtesy flag should be the national flag. However, I noticed you can find it used as a courtesy flag too, ususly by Israli-owned ships sailing under foriegn convinience flag.
It is not prohibited per se (Israeli ship is prohibited from *not* hoisting it), but the flag is defined by law as for use of ships registered in Israel.
Dov Gutterman, 16 September 2003

Specifications and Construction Sheet

[Construction Sheet (Civil Ensign, Israel)] 120 cm ×180 cm
image by Željko Heimer

In the first reading of the [above] passage, one gets the impression that something is not quite right defined. (...) There are actually only two questions that I might think of. (...) The first question regards the vertical 'distance' between the two triangles which form the Magen David. One could make this offset any distance, and obtain something that looks like a Magen David, but still there is only a correct one, that in which the outer small triangles are all the same. I guess that the law assumes this characteristic and thus omits mentioning it. One can visualise this (...) as a mesh of 12 triangles, 6 in the 'points' and 6 in the centre — on the construction sheet they are highlighted in green. The total dimensions of 120 ×180 cm are not indicated, in order not to overload the image.
Željko Heimer, 1 November 2000

[Possible variant (Civil Ensign, Israel)] image by Željko Heimer

A further question is whether the dimensions of the triangles are 'middle-line' or 'outer edge' dimensions. I guess the answer is that they are outer dimensions out of practical reasons. Otherwise the image would look like this one, where the 'middle-lines' are highlighted in green. However in that case the horizontal width of the triangle is not 30 cm but approximately 34,25 cm.
Željko Heimer, 1 November 2000

Incorrect Green Ensign on a stamp

[Incorrect green civil ensign on stamp (Israel)] image by António Martins

I came across this strange stamp from 1958 where —in order to be in the same color as the stamp— the artist made also a green civil ensign. Be sure, there has never been such an ensign. The stamp is one of four stamps that were issued in January 27th, 1958 under the name Maritime Stamps. The stamps show the ship Nirit and 3,225,000 stamps of this kind were issued, one fourth of them with the supplement that includes the "green ensign". All four stamps were designed by Mrs. M. Kroli. Another flag that was included in this series was the Zim houseflag (with blue stars instead of gold - also to resemble the stamp color).
Dov Gutterman, 2 June 1999

By looking carefully at the faulty Israeli stamp, I came to the conclusion it was not an error, but a kind of artistic licence. The stamps I prefer from a philatelical point of view are engraved, and you can feel their relief with your finger. This engraving technique allows only a limited use of colours (usually quadrichromy). Often, for the sake of aesthetic impression, only one colour is used. So if you saw a green ship on the Israeli stamp, you would immediately imagine that the real ship was not green, and the same must hold for the flag.
The modern techniques of offset and heliogravure are cheaper and more and more popular, especially for the massive release made abroad. In this case, colour errors are not artistic, they are simply mistakes. And the third kind of flag error on stamps is anachronism, e.g. showing the Canadian pale on World War Two commemorative stamps.
Ivan Sache, 5 June 1999

I agree it is not an error but an "artistic" use of the flag. It goes also for another flag on the same series of stamps which show Zim houseflag with blue stars (instead of gold) also to match the blue background of the stamp.
Dov Gutterman, 5 June 1999

Irregular Civil Ensign with centered oval

[Irregular Civil Ensign] image by William Garrison

Falsely designed Israeli Civil Ensign (and seemingly at least once in use) from William Garrison's possession. It has the white oval with the Star of David in the center instead of near the hoist. He bought it ca. in 1968 as a used flag in a merchant-marine antiques shop in Bellevue (Washington, U.S.). He writes: "I agree that this Israeli Civil Ensign may be an only one-made ensign, an aberration of the official design. This ensign is very well made. The Magen David star is double-sided machine sewn. It seems that so much care was made into producing it as a one-time production. I tried to find a manufacturer's label. I found a hand-written name, but it could have been the ship's name rather than that of the manufacturer, which was usually machine printed; it is too murky to read."
The fabric, the make and the repairs of this flag indicate real use on a ship. The question remains how official this ship was, and whether this flag had to be taken out of use because it did not correspond to the official design.
Martin Karner/William Garrison, 12 October 2023