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Meet the ‘Betsy Ross of Israel’

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Rebecca Affachiner is often called “the Betsy Ross of Israel.”

She’s earned the moniker because she was the first person to fly the Israeli flag — and a homemade one, at that — over the newly created state of Israel in 1948.

What’s her story? Well, she was born in 1884 on New York’s East Side. She became a public school teacher and received an education at the Jewish Theological Center in 1907, where she was its first female graduate.

When World War I erupted, Affachiner volunteered to join the first women’s unit of the Jewish Welfare Board. She became Assistant Regional Director of the American Embarkation Center in Le Man, France.

Then, in the 1930s, Affachiner moved to in Jerusalem. In the spring of 1948, she refused to leave Jerusalem, even though war was imminent. Because of that, she was trapped in her apartment — and there, she created a flag, using bedsheets and a blue crayon. (Yup, a blue crayon is what made history!)

When David Ben-Gurion announced the creation of the modern state of Israel, Affachiner was ready:  She hung her homemade flag on her balcony, making her the first person to do so. She continued fly her flag on every Israel Independence Day, until her death in 1966.

Her friend and caregiver, Ezra Gorodesky, inherited the flag right before Affachiner’s death. Gorodesky kept the flag for 50 years, and, seeking a permanent home, it will now become part of the Ben-Gurion Research Institute for the Study of Israel and Zionism.

Aside from the flag, Affachiner’s real legacy is the altruistic work she did throughout her life, like establishing the Jewish Big Sisters and Big Brothers organizations in New York City and Hartford, Connecticut. She also founded and directed Council House, the first Jewish Community Center in Norfolk, Virginia, was appointed first National Field Secretary of Hadassah, and organized the Palestine Society for Crippled Children in Israel.

Watch the video below to learn more about her:

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