• Issue: November 2002
  • Designer: Igal Gabay
  • Stamp Size: 25.7 mm x 30.8 mm
  • Plate no.: 495, 498 (No phosphor bars)
  • Sheet of 50 stamps Tabs: 10
  • Printers: Enschede, Holland
  • Method of printing: offset

Different and varied artifacts were found in the Jewish Temple on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem as were found in other ancient places of worship. Three objects were particular only to the Jerusalem Temple: The Table of Showbread, incense altar and the seven-branched menorah made of pure gold. The menorah became the symbol of the people of Israel. The Bible contains descriptions of both the seven-branched menorah and the menorah in the vision of the prophet Zechariah, (Exodus 25 31-40,37 17-24; Zechariah 4 1-7). With the destruction of the First Temple by Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon (586 B.C.E) the menorah was taken, along with other treasures, from the Temple to Babylon and its fate was unknown.

When the Second Temple was built a new golden menorah was made, probably from the original mold, and this was sanctified for hundreds of years until the destruction of the Second Temple by the Roman army led by Titus (70 C.E.) The Roman army paraded with the sacred vessels in their triumphal procession throughout the streets of Rome. An illustration of the procession was engraved in a stone victory arch, which was built in Rome and shows the Judean prisoners carrying the sacred vessels with the seven-branched menorah in the center.

According to written descriptions, the sacred menorah had a tripod base and this is how it is illustrated in hundreds of works of art, as a symbol of Judaism, for generations after the destruction of the Temple. Illustrations from the Second Temple period were found in the archeological excavations of the Jewish quarter and include an-engraving-of the menorah, with-a tripod base, on the wall of one of the houses.

The menorah on the Arch of Titus actually shows a solid base and not a tripod base. In addition ,animal reliefs appear on the engraving - something that did not exist in Jewish art of the Second Temple period and certainly not on holy objects of the Temple. The Romans might have added pagan images to the menorah.

A few months after the declaration of the State of Israel, (15 May 1948) the first Israeli government decided on the country's emblem and flag (10 February 1949). It was natural that the seven-branched menorah be chosen as the emblem of the re-born State, since, more than anything else, it was the symbol of the Jewish people from the time of the Second Temple. Indeed Professor Michael Avi-Yona, one of the great scholars of ancient Jewish art, recommended the menorah from the Arch of Titus for the State's emblem, Graphic artists, Gabriel and Maxim Shamir designed the emblem. Professor Avi-Yona chose the Titus Arch Menorah since the procession in Rome represents the destruction of Jewish independence and two thousand years later independence was renewed. The State's emblem was therefore based on the Titus Arch Menorah with the animals slightly blurred but the base as a whole and not a tripod. Two olive branches surround the menorah on the emblem. This motif was taken from the Book of the Prophet Zechariah which tells of the prophet's vision of menorah and olive branches. The word "Israel" is written beneath the menorah on the emblem. This is the name of the new country but also relates to Jewish inscriptions found in synagogues at the time of the Mishna and Talmud and also relates to the inscription "Shalom al Yisrael which appears--under the seven-branched menorah on the mosaic floor of the Jericho Synagogue from the 7th-8th century.

Meir Ben-Dov

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The Menorah  (candlestick)