The Star of David or, in Hebrew, the Magen David (which translates literally “shield of David”), is not, contrary to what some allege, a pagan symbol. Some claim it to represent the shape of King David’s shield (or perhaps the emblem on it). However, there is really little or no historic evidence to support this idea.
The symbol itself was relatively common throughout much of the Middle East and North Africa. It is also evident in early Jewish artwork, but not as an exclusively Jewish symbol. Although it was eventually used during the Middle Ages as a magical symbol, its roots are largely associated with a purely decorative design exclusive to no particular ethnicity.
By the 17th century, it was displayed on the outside of synagogues to identify them as Jewish places of worship. By the latter part of the 19th Century, the symbol was adopted by the Zionist movement, and of course used commonly during the 20th Century to identify Jews—by some in a degrading fashion, but by themselves as well to show their unity and strength.
In any case, it has now become closely associated with the modern nation of Israel and Judaism. Since it is a national insignia identifying the user or wearer as an Israeli or Jew, or both, one should generally not display it. To learn more about this symbol, you may wish to visit the Jewish Virtual Library at www.us-israel.org or other reference books at your local library.
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