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. . . .

Read more at Haaretz

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

As Hamas’s Power Collapses, Old Feuds Are Resurfacing

In May, Mahmoud Nashabat, a high-ranking military figure in the Fatah party (which controls the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority), was gunned down in central Gaza. Nashabat was an officer in the Gaza wing of the Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, a terrorist outfit that served as Fatah’s vanguard during the second intifada, and now sometimes collaborates with Hamas. But his killers were Hamas members, and he was one of at least 35 Palestinians murdered in Gaza in the past two months as various terrorist and criminal groups go about settling old scores, some of which date back to the 1980s. Einav Halabi writes:

Security sources familiar with the situation told the London-based newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat that Gaza is now also beleaguered by the resurgence of old conflicts. “Many people have been killed in incidents related to the first intifada in 1987, while others have died in family disputes,” they said.

The “first-intifada portfolio” in Gaza is considered complex and convoluted, as it is filled with hatred among residents who accuse others of killing relatives for various reasons, including collaboration with Israel. . . . According to reports from Gaza, there are vigorous efforts on the ground to contain these developments, but the chances of success remain unclear. Hamas, for its part, is trying to project governance and control, recently releasing several videos showcasing how its operatives brutally beat residents accused of looting.

These incidents, gruesome as they are, suggest that Hamas’s control over the territory is slipping, and it no longer holds a monopoly on violence or commands the fear necessary to keep the population in line. The murders and beatings also dimension the grim reality that would ensue if the war ends precipitously: a re-empowered Hamas setting about getting vengeance on its enemies and reimposing its reign of terror.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Fatah, Gaza War 2023, Hamas