Chanukah Symbols – And One Resilient Flag
My colleague recently contacted me regarding a property for sale on Menorah Street in Herzliya. I did not find the property particularly interesting, but I was absolutely thrilled by the street name, as I sensed the makings of a Chanukah article.
The Menorah, a 7-branched candelabra used in the Mishka (Tabernacle), and later in the Temple’s permanent residence in Jerusalem, has been a Jewish symbol for over 3,000 years. Today, the Menorah, surrounded by olive branches, serves as the emblem of the State of Israel. The olive branches hearken back to the Biblical story of Noah and the flood, and are a symbol of peace. In addition, olives played a prominent role in the Chanukah story, as a jug of pure olive oil, barely sufficient to light the Menorah for one day, miraculously lasted for eight days. Dozens of streets across Israel are named HaZayit in honor of the venerated olive tree.
Outside of Israel, the 9-branched lantern kindled on Chanukah is also called a Menorah. In Israel, it is known as a Chanukiah.
In addition to Menorah, other streets related to Chanukah include Maccabeem, found in several Israeli cities, which is named for the Maccabean warriors who led the revolt against the Greek armies and the Hellenistic influence on Jewish life. Half a dozen cities have streets named for Yehudah Hamaccabi (Judah Maccabee), who led the Maccabean revolt. One of these cities is Modiin, which is named after Judah’s father, the priest and leader Matityahu Hamodai.
The Menorah got me thinking about another street in Herzliya that is named in honor of an arguably even more famous national symbol, the Magen David, also known as the Star of David. Magen David literally means David’s Shield because the star was similar to a design that was emblazoned on King David’s legendary shield. For many years, the 6-pointed star was primarily used as a Kabbalistic symbol. However, in 1354, King Charles IV of Bohemia presented the Prague Jewish community with a red flag with the Star of David. The Praguers became the first Jewish community to use the hexagram as their official crest, and this symbol slowly spread to other Jewish communities. By the 17th century, the Star of David’s use was so widespread that it became the international symbol of Jewish houses of worship.
The Israeli flag proudly displays the Star of David flanked by two blue stripes, which were inspired by the stripes on the tallit. This design was originally adopted at the first Zionist Congress in Basle in 1897, and over time became universally accepted as the emblem of the Zionist movement.
Ironically, in the 1930s, the Nazis took the Star of David’s symbol of strength and courage, and cruelly transformed it into a badge of shame, dishonor, and death. Perhaps it was most fitting that the newly established Jewish state, which rose from the ashes of the Holocaust, used the selfsame Magen David to demonstrate the eternal and inextinguishable flame of the Jewish people.
Gedaliah Borvick is the founder of My Israel Home (www.myisraelhome.com), a real estate agency focused on helping people from abroad buy homes in Israel. To sign up for his monthly market updates, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.