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  • Writer's pictureRaizel Druxman

The Day the Menorah Won the Ultimate Prize

The menorah. That beautiful 7 piece candelabra so symbolic to Jewish culture and tradition.

If someone showed you a picture of a menorah, what would your first thought be?

We're going to guess the holiday of Hanukkah popped into your mind! As we all know, the streets of Israel light up with the lights of the menorah (or modern day hanukkiah) each year during the wintery nights of Hanukkah.

Where did the menorah come from, and what does it mean to Israelis and Jews today?

The Knesset's Menorah sculpture in Jerusalem
The Knesset's Menorah sculpture, Jerusalem, Israel

The original Menorah is the one that was used in the Temple. In Jewish tradition, the Menorah is a sign of light, connection, and unity, and was originally made in the desert under the guidance of Jewish leader Moses. Ultimately, it was brought to Israel and used in the holy Temple, and is said to be made of pure gold. This was the menorah that the Romans took during the 2nd destruction of the Temple, which is depicted in the Arch of Titus in Rome today.

In 1948, when Israel established its independence, we held a design contest to find the right symbol for the new State! On February 2nd, 1949, the brothers Gabriel and Maxim Shamir submitted the design that won the heart of the committee, the design that we see on all Israeli documents today: the 7-branched menorah, flanked by two olive branches, which includes the original entry from the Shamir brothers and elements from other submissions.

The design depicts the Menorah from the Arch of Titus and may also be based on the biblical prophet Zecharia’s vision that describes a menorah with olive trees on either side. Olive branches are also associated with peace in Jewish tradition and represent Israel’s will to live peacefully.

A stone carving of a menorah on a wall
Menorah, a seven-branched candelabrum that is one of the oldest symbols of the Jewish people.

Given the powerful symbolism, the menorah is now on all official documents including the Israeli passport, in addition to its yearly use during the holiday of Hanukkah. However, on Hanukkah, we use a hanukkiah- a menorah with one extra candlestick, representing the 8 nights that the ancient Hanukkah miracle lasted for!

Imagine if we can take this symbol and live up to its full potential - now that would be the ultimate prize!


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