In honor of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel, an Israeli flag created by Rebecca Affachiner, often called “the Betsy Ross of Israel," has found a new home at the Ben-Gurion Archives on the Sede Boqer Campus of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.
Rebecca Affachiner made aliyah in the 1930s. In May 1948, when an American consular official urged her to leave Jerusalem immediately due to the expected outbreak of hostilities, Affachiner refused.
“I cannot abandon my sisters and brothers," she told the newspaper, Ma'ariv, at the time. “I have waited my entire lifetime to see the rebirth of a Jewish state. I do not intend to miss it." She was confined to her apartment on Jabotinsky Street, unable to buy supplies, but she spent her time creating an Israeli flag from her bed sheets. She sewed on a six-pointed star and colored the flag's stripes with a blue crayon.
Late in the day on May 14, when Affachiner heard David Ben-Gurion proclaim the formation of the new State of Israel, she proudly went out to her balcony, within sight of the Jordanian forces gathered nearby, and hung her flag. She continued to fly the flag every Israel Independence Day until her death in 1966, when she entrusted the flag to her good friend and caregiver, Ezra P. Gorodesky. She made him promise he would take good care of the flag because “it was my personal way of welcoming Israel into existence."
Gorodesky, who made aliyah from Philadelphia in the early 1960s, is widely known in Israel as an avid collector of books, buttons and photographs, to name a few, which he has donated to the National Library and Shenker College, among others. He preserved the flag in his small apartment for 50 years.
He decided that the 70th anniversary of Israel would be the appropriate time to find a permanent home for the flag. Gorodesky contacted his friend, Rabbi David Geffen, who made aliyah from Delaware in the 1970s, and asked him to help find the flag a permanent home. David Geffen, a longtime friend of Toni Young, president of American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (AABGU), contacted her and a new home was found after she gladly purchased the flag in order to donate it to the Ben-Gurion Archives.
“I am incredibly honored to be a link in this chain of Americans who created, preserved and understood the value of this flag," says AABGU president Toni Young.
“Since the beginning, American Jews have worked side by side with Israelis in creating and sustaining the State of Israel. In its new home at BGU's Ben-Gurion Archives, the flag will remain as a symbol of the creative passion that brought Israel into existence and the sustaining passion that helps ensure Israel's future. Ezra has fulfilled his promise to Rebecca and enabled the flag to reach its rightful place as part of The Ben-Gurion Research Institute for the Study of Israel and Zionism."
Dr. Paula Kabalo, director of the Ben-Gurion Institute, found a letter in its Archives from Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion sent to Rebecca Affachiner acknowledging her gift to the Israel Defense Fund in 1957. He praised her as an inspiring example of Jewish devotion: “It is this spirit which has enabled us to achieve our independence and this spirit will ensure the success of our future endeavors."
“Rebecca's original Israel flag is an excellent addition to the Ben-Gurion Archives," says Dr. Kabalo. “It will be displayed with Ben-Gurion's diaries."
Affachiner was born in Nesvizh, Poland (now Belarus) and grew up on New York City's East side. She was the first female graduate of New York's Jewish Theological Center in 1907, and was a teacher, administrator and charity worker. She also lived in Connecticut and Virginia before making aliyah in 1934 at age 50. Throughout her life, she was devoted to the welfare of Jews in Israel and worldwide.
Photo Caption: The flag Rebecca Affachiner, the “Betsy Ross of Israel," made and first flew when David Ben-Gurion proclaimed the new state of Israel in 1948 will now reside in the Ben-Gurion Archives at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU), along with the first prime minister's diaries and other significant artifacts. Jerusalem collector Ezra Gorodesky, right, transferred the flag to BGU President Prof. Rivka Carmi, left, in honor of Israel's 70th anniversary, following its purchase by AABGU for the purpose of donating it to the Ben-Gurion Archives.