The Mysterious Squiggles on Israel’s National Emblem

The emblem of the state of Israel, officially adopted in 1949, features a menorah surrounded by olive branches on either side with the word Israel (in Hebrew) at the bottom. The menorah itself rests on a two-tiered base, containing six odd-looking figures. After determining these drawings’ significance, Elon Gilad finds himself confronting another mystery. (Free registration required).

The menorah . . . on the emblem is a stylized version of the menorah carved in relief on Titus’ Arch in Rome. The arch was built in 83 CE to mark the victories of the deceased emperor—including the conquest of Jerusalem. . . . Simply, those scribbles on the emblem are simplified versions of the ornamentation on the base of the menorah that is depicted on the arch.

The paint on the relief faded away centuries ago, and the stone engraving itself has worn over the ages. Yet we can still see that these designs portray a host of mythological creatures.

But the Ten Commandments state, “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.” Is it possible that a menorah with graven images really stood in the Temple? On this, researchers are divided. . . .

Other depictions of the Temple menorah are not particularly helpful. The most ancient image of it found to date is well known to Israelis—it appears on the “tails” side of the contemporary ten-agorot coin. That menorah is a copy of coins minted by King Antigonus II Mattathias, the last Hasmonean king, in 37 BCE, just over 100 years before the menorah arrived in Rome. The menorah in these coins [has] a base . . . much smaller than the one on Titus’ Arch, having only one level, not two. Nor can any designs be seen adorning it.

The differences may be due to the medium: ancient coins are often highly symbolic representations of the original. But it could also mean that sometime between 37 BCE and 70 CE, the menorah, or at least its base, was changed. . . .

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Read more at Haaretz

More about: Archaeology, Hasmoneans, History & Ideas, Israel, Menorah, Ten Commandments

Zionists Can, and Do, Criticize Israel. Are Anti-Zionists Capable of Criticizing Anti-Semitism?

Dec. 12 2018

Last week, the New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg defended the newly elected anti-Israel congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, ostensibly arguing that anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism aren’t identical. Abe Greenwald comments:

Tlaib . . . has tweeted and retweeted her enthusiasm for terrorists such as Rasmea Odeh, who murdered two American students in a Jerusalem supermarket in 1969. If Tlaib’s anti-Zionism is of the Jew-loving kind, she has a funny way of showing it.

Ilhan Omar, for her part, once tweeted, “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.” And wouldn’t you know it, just because she believes that Zionist hypnotists have cast global spells masking Israeli evil, some people think she’s anti-Semitic! Go figure! . . .

Goldberg spends the bulk of her column trying very hard to uncouple American Jewishness from Israel. To do that, she enumerates Israel’s sins, as she sees them. . . . [But] her basic premise is at odds with reality. Zionists aren’t afraid of finding fault with Israel and don’t need to embrace anti-Zionism in order to [do so]. A poll conducted in October by the Jewish Electorate Institute found that a majority of Americans Jews have no problem both supporting Israel and criticizing it. And unlike Goldberg, they have no problem criticizing anti-Semitism, either.

Goldberg gives the game away entirely when she discusses the discomfort that liberal American Jews have felt in “defending multi-ethnic pluralism here, where they’re in the minority, while treating it as unspeakable in Israel, where Jews are the majority.” She adds: “American white nationalists, some of whom liken their project to Zionism, love to poke at this contradiction.” Read that again. She thinks the white nationalists have a point. Because, really, what anti-Semite doesn’t?

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Read more at Commentary

More about: Anti-Semitism, Israel & Zionism, New York Times