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New Castle Still Intends to Take Down Israeli Flag Despite Pushback

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The Israeli flag has been flying over New Castle Town Hall since shortly after the Oct. 7 attacks in Israel.

The New Castle Town Board maintained last week that it plans to take down the Israeli flag from in front of Town Hall next month despite pleas from several residents to reconsider the decision.

Last Tuesday, board members followed up on discussion from their Feb. 27 work session, affirming that at about the 180-day mark after the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks that killed about 1,200 Israelis, the town would remove the flag.

Supervisor Victoria Tipp said everyone on the Town Board stands in solidarity with Israel, but intervening events, such as the ongoing war in Gaza and the policies of the Israeli government that have come under greater scrutiny in recent weeks, have to be considered.

In absence of a town policy that guides officials about flying foreign flags outside of Town Hall, Tipp said there could be other ways to remember those who have died and the hostages who are still being held by Hamas, such as encouraging residents to affix yellow ribbons to trees and fences on their property if they want to publicly show their support.

“So as a Town Board, we have to be aware of the messages that we’re communicating to the world and the appropriateness of these matters to local town governance,” Tipp said. “We care deeply about the hostages and I hope we can find a way, a less politicized way of representing our support for them.”

Early last month, one of the criticisms of the town at the ceasefire rally in downtown Chappaqua was the ongoing presence of the Israeli flag outside of Town Hall, especially since New Castle is home to a small but visible contingent of people of Palestinian heritage. Furthermore, longtime Planning Board member Tom Curley has recused himself for more than three months and will only resume serving on that board once the flag comes down.

During public comments last week, a handful of residents appealed to the board to continue flying the flag. The most outspoken was Chappaqua resident Eli Benson, who said that the alarming spike in antisemitic incidents across the United States and in town makes it crucial for the town to remain strong and not make it appear that officials are capitulating.

“When you take that flag down, it’s an action against the Jewish people,” Benson said. “There are hostages in Israel. They have not been released. They are fighting a terrorist organization (as) recognized by the United States of America and the European Union. I had lived in London for six years. I know what it feels like to walk around a city – and this was before Oct. 7 – not being able to show your Star of David, and God help me if that ever happens in Chappaqua.”

Another resident, Robert Fleisher, suggested officials do a more effective job of clearly communicating why the flag was raised.

“So it doesn’t have to be interpreted by anybody that might associate it with certain actions of the Israeli government that many people might not like,” Fleisher said.

Tipp responded that it was clear to many people that it was done to show support for the Israeli hostages and for the Jewish community locally, but there are other concerns.

“I would like to do that without having to maintain a flag of another nation for an indefinite amount of time,” Tipp said. “That’s really the difficulty.”

The town had also flown the Ukrainian flag following the Russian invasion in February 2022, but that was removed after it was damaged by weather, she said.

Councilwoman Holly McCall said she’s not certain that flying a flag will make people feel safer or resolve the differences of opinion on geopolitical issues.

“To me, I don’t know that I believe the flag is going to make the difference,” McCall said. “But what I do know is that I want everyone to feel safe and I’d like to know that we can find ways to be a community that is safe for everyone who chooses to live here.”

Councilwoman Ally Chemtob dissented last month from the rest of the board because hostages were still being held. She said that many in the community appreciated the gesture, and that’s why some want to have the flag continue to fly.

“It has never been more clear to me just how much this gesture of solidarity meant to so many in our community,” Chemtob said. “Understanding the concerns of those residents and addressing the rise of antisemitism in our own community is central to any conversations or actions we take in fostering community healing. I see you, I hear you and I’m with you.”

Once the Israeli flag is taken down, it will be brought to Temple Beth El of Northern Westchester in Chappaqua, Tipp said.


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