NOBODY MADE A GREATER MISTAKE THAN HE WHO DID NOTHING BECAUSE HE COULD DO A LITTLE—-EDMUND BURKE
Community activist and NIFI supporter, Fiona Presho, delves into the meaning and significance of the Jewish star.
I am involved as a volunteer with my community in Holywood. I was asked to attend a BRIC (Building Relationships in Communities) course over a series of 6 sessions which took place in Belfast, Dungannon and Derry/Londonderry. This was funded by the Housing Executive NI and the Rural Development Council (RDC). The training was provided by TIDES which aims to empower local capacity building for conflict management and peace building.
HE and RDC realise that 95% of housing estates in NI remain segregated and want to address this in a practical way.
The final session dealt with WORKING WITH CONTENTIOUS ISSUES. As a part of that, each participant was asked to make a short presentation on two symbols, flags or emblems that were of significance to them and they were interested in researching.
One of the symbols I chose was THE STAR OF DAVID, particularly the Yellow Star worn by Jewish people during the Shoah (I also chose the logo of the Smiles foundation, a Christian charity which works with the Roma community in Romania).
Why the Star of David? The week-end before I attended a performance of “THEY ALL STOOD SILENT”, a play about the stories of lives of Jewish people during the Shoah. Some of the characters wore yellow stars on an armband – a familiar image from films and documentaries of the Shoah, but also on the front and back of their garments. This really shocked me, as I hadn’t realised Jews had to display the star front and back.In my research I discovered that this was to make life even more difficult for Jews as they had to sew these badges on, and often used one badge on different garments. Having to wear two made it that bit more difficult to hide or disguise the fact that you were Jewish.
I reflected on times in my life when I may have been labelled something negative. I may have held onto that label in my psyche but I didn’t have to display it or fear punishment if I didn’t and was found out! STICKS AND STONES MAY BREAK MY BONES BUT NAMES WILL NEVER HURT ME is a lie in my opinion.
My research on the Star of David taught me so much. I discovered that the origins of the Jewish star are shrouded in mystery. One interpretation is that it consists of two Greek deltas (King David’s name begins and ends with the equivalent Hebrew letter, daled). The six pointed star shows one delta pointing heavenwards and the other to this world – indicating the divine mission of the Jewish people to observe God’s law on earth.
There are links with the Jewish Kabbala (mystical teaching). The whole origin of the hexagram and the SEAL of SOLOMON is interesting, and the interpretation of God over all. Some Christian groups today see the Hebrew alphabet hidden in the star or MAGEN (SHIELD). The early Zionist movement adopted it as a symbol of the Jewish people in the 19th century and with the formation of the nation of Israel it is readily recognised as the symbol on the flag of Israel.
I do not really feel that I have the right to speak about the star of David without some input from Jews. Some of those whom I spoke with didn’t want to comment as they were descended from those who managed to escape from the Shoah. However NIFI’s Steven Jaffe very kindly gave me some of his thoughts which I shared with the group. This made my presentation complete as it showed what a 21st century Jewish man feels and has to confront every day. It was timely in view of recently reported anti-semitic incidents here in NI (including the attempted burning of an Israeli flag at City Hall a year or two back – see photo above).
I know the TIDES tutors appreciated my talk and so did the other participants and it gave rise to interesting discussion. I hope I may have opened some eyes and hearts to the suffering of the Jewish people through my presentation and that is why I used Edmund Burke’s quote (see above) coupled with the regret of those who remained silent.