Treasured Hanukkah Menorahs of Early Israel: A Resource Guide
Aaron Ha'Tell and Yaniv Ben Or compiled a collection of over 1,000 menorahs produced in 20th century Israel. Each - with its individual style, composition, materials and motif - sheds a light on the story of Israel from ancient to modern times. More than half of these menorahs are documented in the book Lighting the Way to Freedom, Treasured Hanukkah Menorahs of Early Israel. Below are some examples of menorahs with a number of conversation pieces.
A note of clarification: The Hebrew term menorah refers to a candleabra with places for varying numbers of candles. The term hanukkiah refers to those menorahs that are designed to be used during the Hanukkah holiday, and include a place for eight candles plus a lighter candle (shamash).
The hanukkiah is symbolic of the many generations that have contributed to the development of the land and people of Israel. The example above shows (on the right) an ancient Jew, and (on the left) a young laborer who has been harvesting the land. Who is the figure on the right, a Maccabee? Moses? Or someone else? Defend your opinion with clues from the hanukkiah. Together, these two figures, ancient and modern, hold up the Hanukkah candles. What was the artist trying to convey? What else do you notice about the structure of this particular hannukiah?
Srulik, the male character, is an iconic image of the "typical" Israeli, strongly associated with the early period of the state. What can we learn about the mindset of Israelis during this period? What are they doing? How does this comport with what was happening aorund them during that time? Where else do we see depictions of Srulik, and how do they compare to this one? What can we learn from the use of such vivid colors? What bigger story do the details in this hanukkiah tell us?
The hanukkiyot above portray snapshots of daily life in the land of Israel from biblical times through the early days of the 20th century. In these three examples, what do you see? The symbols of donkeys and camels represent a nomadic lifestyle. The bottom hanukkiah portrays a man carrying a lit Aladdin lamp and serves as a cultural and geographic reference. What else do you notice? What can you learn from the placement of the shamash? What do you notice about the coloring and material? How do the overall shapes of the hanukkiyot enhance their respective messages?
The hannukiyot above all feature Klezmer musicians - originating from Eastern European communities - celebrating Hanukkah and dreaming of freedom in Zion. While the exact date of these hanukkiyot is unknown, there is some speculation that they were designed around the time of the Holocaust as a way to give people hope for a future in Zion. What do you see in the hanukkiyot that support this view? What might contradict this view? If you disagree, when do you think they were created and what supports your claim?
The State of Israel was established in 1948. This hanukkiah depicts the brand new state's seal, placed between two olive branches. Why do you think the designer placed the seal between two olive branches? Why are they so high?
The use of animals found in the Bible is a very prominent motif in Israeli hanukkiyot. Why did the artists choose the animals in the two examples above? What do these animals symbolize? Why are they placed where they are on the hanukkiyah and why are the other decorative elements included? How do the various elements relate to one another? How do these hanukkiyot blend images of modern and ancient?
Some additional activities:
1) Challenge your students to point out themes and motifs, and try to relate them to Israel.
2) Ask students which hanukkiah they think is the most interesting and unusual. What makes it so?
3) Once students have studied these hanukkiyot, ask them to come up with images of Israel they might include on their own hanukkiah and ask them why they chose their particular images. Then, bring in materials for them to create their own hanukkiyot to use at home.
- If they had one image to put on their own personal menorah, what would it be?
- What different types of materials can be used to create a menorah?
4) Comparison exercises between American and Israeli hanukkiyot: Ask students to bring in either a special hanukkiah they think was made in America or a photo they found on the Internet of an unusual American hanukkiah. How do their hanukkiyot compare to some of those they have been learning about in this exercise? What do they think accounts for these differences?
For more images, please visit the iCenter Flickr page.
For the official website, please visit hanukkiot.com.
For the complete book, please click here.
For the iCenter's complete Hanukkah resource guide, please click here.