Carved menorah
Photo © Israel Museum, Jerusalem

Carved menorah.
Synagogue of Hammat by Tiberias, Galilee
4th-5th century CE
Israel Museum Collection, Jerusalem

At the tip of each branch, this high-relief menorah has a hollow to hold an oil lamp, probably a small glass beaker. It is the only one of its kind ever found. The alternating pomegranate and flower design is inspired by the biblical description of the menorah : "On one branch there shall be three cups shaped like almond-blossoms, each with calyx and petals." (Exodus 25:33).

Fragment of a synagogue screen
Photo © The Israel Museum, by Dr. Jean-Luc Pilon, Canadian Museum of Civilization

Fragment of a synagogue screen.
Ashkelon, southern coast
6th-7th century CE
Collection of the Deutsches Evangelisches Institut für Altertumswissenschaft des Heiligen Landes, Jerusalem, exhibited at The Israel Museum, Jerusalem

Screens were used in both synagogues and churches of the time. This fragment was the upper part of such a screen. It comes from a synagogue and is decorated with Jewish symbols: a menorah, a lulav (palm branch), an etrog (citron) and a shofar (ram's horn). All these objects played important roles during ceremonies in the Temple and are still part of Jewish religious practice today.

Mosaic floor with Jewish symbols
Photo © The Israel Museum, by Dr. Jean-Luc Pilon, Canadian Museum of Civilization

Mosaic floor with Jewish symbols.
5th century CE
Israel Antiquities Authority Collection exhibited at The Israel Museum, Jerusalem

This section of a floor comes from a Jewish public building and bears the Jewish symbols common at the time: a menorah, in the middle, an incense shovel, a lulav (palm branch), a shofar (ram's horn) and an etrog (citron). In the middle is a blessing in Greek: "Blessing to the People".

Mosaic floors were typical of the Byzantine period and decorated both synagogues and churches-buildings whose rather sober exteriors frequently concealed sumptuous interiors. It is unusual to find such religious symbols in a secular building, however.

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