Aaron Ha-Tell and Yaniv Ben Or compiled a collection of over 1,000 menorot produced in 20th century Israel. Each menorah, with its individual style, composition, materials and motif, sheds light on the story of Israel from ancient to modern times. More than half of these menorot are documented in the book Lighting the Way to Freedom: Treasured Hanukkah Menorahs of Early Israel. Below are some examples of menorot with a number of conversation pieces.
A note of clarification on the title of Lighting the Way to Freedom, Treasured Hanukkah Menorahs of Early Israel: The Hebrew term menorah refers to a candelabra with places for varying numbers of candles. The term chanukkiah refers to those menorot designed to be used during the Chanukkah holiday, and include a place for eight candles plus a lighter candle (shamash).
Ancient and Modern in One
The chanukkiah is symbolic of the many generations that have contributed to the development of the land and people of Israel.
- Who is the figure on the right? A Maccabee? Moses? Someone else? Defend your opinion with clues from the chanukkiah.
- Together, these two figures, ancient and modern, hold up the Chanukkah candles. What was the artist trying to convey? What else do you notice about the structure of this particular channukiah?
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?
- What can we learn from the use of such vivid colors?
- What bigger story do the details in this chanukkiah tell us?
Cultural and Geographic Allusions
The chanukkiot 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?
- 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 chanukkiot enhance their respective messages?
The channukiot below all feature Klezmer musicians – which originated in Eastern European communities – celebrating Chanukkah and dreaming of freedom in Zion.
- While the exact date of these chanukkiot 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 chanukkiot 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
The State of Israel was established in 1948. This chanukkiah depicts the 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?
Animals in Art
The use of animals found in the Bible is a very prominent motif in Israeli chanukkiot.
- What do you see in the chanukkiot?
- What do the animals symbolize?
- What other decorative elements are included, and how to they relate to one another?
- How do these chanukkiot blend images of modern and ancient?
- Challenge your students to point out themes and motifs, and try to relate them to Israel.
- Ask students which chanukkiah they think is the most interesting and unusual. What makes it so?
- Once students have studied these chanukkiot, ask them to come up with images of Israel they might include on their own chanukkiah and ask them why they chose them. Bring in materials for students to create their own chanukkiot to use at home.
- What different types of materials can be used to create a chanukkiah?
- Ask students to bring a unique chanukkiah that they have or a photo they found on the Internet of one. How do their chanukkiot images compare to some of those they have been learning about in this exercise? What do they think accounts for these differences?