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Subnational Flags (Israel)

Last modified: 2024-01-06 by martin karner
Keywords: israel | subnational | district | mekhozot | municipality | iriyot | local council | mo'atzot mekomiyot | regional council | mo'atzot ezoriyot | law |
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Israeli municipalities have only a statutory coat-of-arms, and their flags usually are the coat-of-arms on a background which is chosen by the mayor, city council or a city official, and can be changed at their will. Some cities use the Israeli flag as background, changing the Magen David with the coat-of-arms (for example the flag of Jerusalem). The absence of any legal status of city flags, and the mayors' wishes to make their cities more colourful during holidays, is bringing the result that in some cities you can see the local coat-of-arms printed on different backgrounds.
Dov Gutterman
, 7 September 1998

Israel is administratively divided into six districts. However, those districts have no form of government and have no flags or emblems. So the subdivisions of Israel are municipalities of which there are more than 200. Municipal flags are basically logo-on-bedsheets (LOBs) and some cities use more than one background colour. These flags are not official, however some municipalities have used the same background for ages so those could be considered as semi-official.
Dov Gutterman
, 15 April and 15 May 1999

There are three types of Israeli subnational divisions. The combined name for all three types of subdivisions is Local Authorities and they number 258 in all. The three types are:

  • Iriyat or Municipality: big urban settlement (sometimes mistakenly translated as city);
  • Mo'atza Mekomit or Local Council: small urban settlement; and
  • Mo'atza Ezorit or Regional Council: rural area with small settlements, mainly agricultural.

There are no specifications of these flags, and flags can differ from one batch to other. Therefore, it is more than probable to find different sizes of emblems, inscriptions or colors. (...) My guess is that the municipality orders flags without specification apart of colour and the rest relies on the manufacturer ...
Dov Gutterman
, 16 and 21 August 2001

Israeli basketball teams usually hoist their municipal flags at their courts. Some of them are vertical variants of the municipal flags. I had a chance to see two of them this week in TV. One of Haifa and one of Local Council Giv'at Shmu'el (which was reported as light green over greyish green, and looks to me as white over regular green). Both were 5:2 with the emblem rotated 90 degrees.
Dov Gutterman
, 10 November 2001

This is my theory: The Israeli municipal "heraldry" developed in mainly 1950's and was naturally influenced by the art and graphical design of the period. That is characterized by clear and simple monocoloured logos reminiscent partially in classical heraldry (mainly only by using shield shapes) and even more in "socialist" design. The coats of arms are therefore
designed so to provide all the message shown in bicolour representation (black-white, if you like) or better yet as carving or relief.
[The designing is surely influenced by the need to use it on official papers etc. ... Most of the "old" emblems are really in shape of shields, but even in the first official publications in 1958, one can find more "modern" designs.]
I suppose that the 1965 stamp issue of Israeli post popularized well this kind of emblems, and that many of latter designed emblems are heavily influenced by it – after all these were definitive regular issues in daily postage use for a decade or so, I think.
[There were two series of emblems stamps (very popular in the period). However, when those were issued, many of the emblems used today were already published. I can't see a change in the flow of emblems publications after this issue.]
Anyway, once you have an emblem that could be printed in any colour and yet be clearly (or less clearly, depending on the design) identified, it seems that the towns started using, first exclusivly for ornamental purposes, the emblem printed on a monocoloured sheet as flags to be hoisted along the main streets, or along the beach or whatever. As there was no particular colour preference, it was soon realized that a better effect could be made if every flag in the display is coloured differently. Similar practice is used by some companies that also use monocoloured logo ...
[The use of municipal flags was very limited until mid 1980'. I can't remember seeing too much of the used before that. My theory is that the Amendment to the Flag and Emblem Law in 1986, which made the hoisting of national flag at the city hall as obligatory, gave the push for using municipal flags too.]
Anyway, apparently to understand the Israeli vexillology correctly, one must comprehend that the colours are not always an essential element of the flag design here, just as e.g. flag ratio is not essential element of design in many other parts of the world (i.e. even when it is prescribed often it is ignored and flags are used as suitable). Non-determined colours are obviously a peculiarity of Israeli vexillology.
Željko Heimer [remarks by Dov Gutterman], 21 July 2003

I was asked by Nathan Lamm: Is there a reason for the use of yellow/green? It seems widespread – is it?
The use of yellow background with green emblem is quite spread from two reasons:
1) Most of them can be found in the south part of Israel (The Negev) where those probably symbolize an oasis in the desert. In other regions it is less frequent, and in regional councils (rural areas) probably represents the sun and agriculture.
2) In urban areas it is very rarely used as single variant and when used it is to make the place more colourful among other background used.
Dov Gutterman, 21 July 2003

Official names are transliterations of the Hebrew or Arabic name made by the Hebrew Language Academy. However, those are not always used also by the local authorities and, therefore, one can find various transliterations to one name. State road signs always use the official transliterations, but it is not rare to see a municipal road sign next to it with different transliteration. In rare cases, even when the name in Hebrew is pronounced differently, the official transliteration keeps the worldwide known name (i.e. Tiberias and not Tverya, Haifa and not Kheifa, Acre and not Akko etc.).
The difference between Kefar and Kafar is caused by the language that apply (Hebrew or Arabic). In any case both mean "village".
Dov Gutterman, 21 April 2005

Districts / Mekhozot

Municipalities / Iriyot

Local Councils / Mo'atzot Mekomiyot

Regional Councils / Mo'atzot Ezoriyot

Ralph Phillips sent me two pages of a book called Regional Councils in Israel, which contain photos of desk flags of all – or at least almost all – of Israel Regional Councils. There are no official flags for any of these regional councils and the desk flags are usually logo-on-bedsheet containing the emblem of the regional council, usually on a white background. For example, this scan shows the flag of the Regional Council of Shaar HaNegev (Negev's Gate) which situated in the northern part of the Negev desert.
Dov Gutterman, 3 April 2000

Municipal Flags Legislation

I have carried out a research about the origin and the legislation of Israel municipal flags, covering all legislation and proclamations concerned. There is one final conclusion to this research – there is not even one official municipal flag in Israel!

Until 1958 there was no legal status to the emblems of local authorities in Israel. There was some protection against their misuse according to general legislation (copyright rules, criminal and civil laws preventing misleading etc.) but those emblems were not protected per se against misuse. In 1958, the Knesset [parliament] enacted The Local Authorities (Emblems) Act, 5718-1958 (adopted 5 August 1958), which included the following provisions (as translated by me):

2 (a) Local authority is permitted, by majority vote of its members, to determine an emblem for itself.
(b) Local authority which decided to determine an emblem for itself, shall get the approval of the Minister of interior, and the approved emblem shall be published in the Rashumot [official gazette], and in doing so the emblem shall become the emblem of this local authority.

Altogether 173 proclamations were done according to this act until 1974. Ten of them were corrections or replacements to previously published emblems (usually right after the authority was upgraded from Local Council to Municipality). Some of them are of long forgotten and now dissolved local authorities.

This Act was replaced by the Symbols Protection Act of 1974 which had two major elements added. It now applied not only to local authorities but also to the symbols of government and governmental organizations, and it also applied to flags. Guess how many flags were protected by this law since 1974 until nowadays – not even one! From the enactment and until this very day there were 66 proclamations. 62 by municipalities, 3 by the government, 1 by a governmental organization – all of them about emblems, none about flags.

The municipal emblems which appear on the (unofficial) flags are published in the official gazette (Rashumot), in a part called Yalkut Ha'Pirsumim (usually abbreviated as YP) where such proclamations are published.

Dov Gutterman, 4 September 2001

Vocabulary used in Local Authorities' names

Here are some words that are used in many Israeli local authorities and other settlements. All are Hebrew except where indicated:

  • Abu (Arabic) = father of
  • Be'er (Arabic Bir) = well
  • Bet = house of
  • Bene = sons of
  • Biq'at = valley of (see also Emeq)
  • Deir (Arabic) = monastery
  • Ein = spring
  • Emeq = valley
  • Even = stone
  • Gan = garden, Ganne = garden of
  • Giv'at = hill of
  • Gush = block
  • Har = mountain
  • Hevel = area, region (lit. rope)
  • Hof = sea shore
  • Kokhav (Arabic Kaukab) = star
  • Illit = upper
  • Kefar (Arabic Kafr) = village
  • Ma'ale = uphill, ascent
  • Matte = stick (refer to partition of Israel by the tribes and therefore = area and/or people of a tribe)
  • Migdal = tower
  • Mizpe = observation point
  • Nahal = small river, stream
  • Neve = dwelling, habitation
  • Or = light
  • Qirya(t) = town (of)
  • Ramat = height of, Ramot = heights of
  • Rosh = head, top
  • Sha'ar = gate
  • Tel = mound, hill
  • Umm (Arabic) = mother of

Dov Gutterman, 19 October 2001