There are eight nations represented by their flags below: Switzerland, Israel, America, Turkey, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Hungary, and India. Which flag is different from all the other flags and why?
If you guessed the American flag as the odd one out, well done! You have great observational skills. Or, great Googling skills. Either way you slice it, the American flag is the only flag pictured here that lacks distinct religious symbols. You might be surprised to find that Israel's flag has more in common with the flags of Denmark, Switzerland or the United Kingdom than that of the United States; instead of featuring the symbol of the cross, the Israeli flag displays the Star of David. Some Americans, because of the nature of our own struggle with the separation of religion and state, may wrestle with the claim that Israel can be both Jewish and democratic, and might be prone to charges that Israel has no right to exist. But those who claim that Israel is not a legitimate democracy or country may not realize that the vast majority of liberal democracies were founded with a very different sense of purpose than the United States was. The presence of religious iconography on it's state symbols doesn't automatically revoke the status of Israel as a liberal democracy, any more than it revokes the democratic nature of Denmark, or the UK. While Israel is a unique country in many ways, it still falls quite squarely within the range of liberal democracies worldwide, many of which emerged out of similar historical circumstances and adopted comparable systems and practices.
Want to find out more about the role of religion in Israel's government, explore cultural neutrality, or find out what is truly unique about the Jewish state? Check out our brand new primer and discussion guide, Understanding Jewish Statehood.