This is a beautifully decorated Chanukiya (Hanukah lamp) from the collections of the Jewish Museum, London. It was made around 1921–1922 from a brass shell case used in World War I.
The nine stalks intended as candle holders are attached to the shell case with Magen Davids (Stars of David). The words of the blessing over the Chanukah candles are engraved behind the candle holders. Etched underneath the blessings on the front of the Chanukiya are Hebrew words reading “by Raphael Avraham Shalem.” Above the blessing, there are nine arched doorways with hanging lamps (one for each candle). The words to the Chanukah song “Al HaNisim” feature in each arch. Above the doorways is a dedication written in Hebrew:
"An everlasting souvenir for the High Commissioner of the Land of Israel, Eliezer ben Menahem, whom God protect. In his days may Judah and Is[rael] be saved. Amen."
On the reverse side two pictures are engraved in the brass: one depicts the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem and the Tower of David; the other, underneath it, is an image of soldiers carrying guns and marching together with military trucks and horses. One side of the Chanukiya is open, while the other side contains some drawings of flowers as well as an image of the Tower of David and what appears to be Rachel’s Tomb. There is also a circle with the Hebrew words, “Jerusalem 5682 (1921-1922)” in the centre and surrounded by the words “by your servant Raphael A. Shalem.”
This Chanukiya is an example of “trench art,” decorative items created from war materials including used shell cases. The artist was Raphael Avraham Shalem, a native of Salonica who was a student at Bezalel, the Jerusalem College of Art, from 1913–1918. He created some other “trench art” pieces such as this.
From the dedication on the Chanukiya it appears that after the war it was given to Sir Herbert Samuel, whose Hebrew name was Eliezer ben Menahem. Samuel, a British Jew, was the first British high commissioner of Palestine from 1920–1925. When he was appointed, Jews were very optimistic about his role in establishing a Jewish state; however, he held a neutral position and attempted to appease both Zionist and Arab parties, ultimately disappointing both sides.
A Chanukiya (also known as a Menorah) is a lamp that is lit on the eight nights of Chanukah in memory of the miracle that happened during Greek rule of the Land of Israel. The Maccabees led the Jewish people in a revolt against the Greeks and freed the Jewish Temple from idols. They wanted to rededicate the Temple by relighting the Menorah, but there was not enough oil left. A small jar of oil, enough to last for one day, lasted miraculously for eight days, which was enough time to prepare fresh oil. The holiday of Chanukah commemorates this miracle through several traditions, most notably lighting candles (or oil) in a Chanukiya for eight days. A Chanukiya consists of nine candle holders – one for each of the eight nights and an additional one for the shamash, the candle which is used to light the other candles.
This beautiful Chanukiya can be used in various educational contexts. It can be shown in Jewish Studies lessons before Chanukah as an example of the many different shapes and designs of Chanukiot. It can also be used to discuss the lives of British Jewish soldiers during the war or alongside images of German Jewish soldiers celebrating Chanukah.
This item can also be used in Jewish History lessons dealing with World War I, the beginning of the British Mandate in Israel, and the first high commissioner, Sir Herbert Samuel.
In Art lessons, teachers can show this Chanukiya in the lead up to Chanukah as an example of interesting designs for Judaica alongside other examples of Judaica from the Bezalel Art School and of the specific art style developed there. This could lead to a discussion about the biblical namesake of the school and his connection to art and crafts.
What is this?
What is it used for?
What is it made of?
When do you think it was made?
What texts are engraved on it?
What language are they written in?
What are the pictures on the reverse side?
Can you find any clues about the identity of the artist?
Reading Between the Lines
This object is a Chanukiya (a Hanukah lamp).
Take a look at the texts and the images engraved on it.
When do you think it was created? What details helped you reach this conclusion?
This Chanukiya is an example of “trench art” and is created from a shell case.
Based upon the answer to the previous question, why do you think the Chanukiya was made from a shell case?
What is written behind the candle holders?
When is this said?
What shape are the pieces that attach the stalks to the lamp?
Why is this shape significant?
What buildings are engraved on the closed side of the lamp?
Where are these places located?
What is their significance?
The name of the artist appears beside the engravings of the buildings.
What was his name?
The artist studied at the Bezalel Art College in Jerusalem. Find out more about this institution.
There is a dedication engraved on the Chanukiya to Sir Herbert Samuel.
Who was he?
Who do you think may have given the Chanukiya to him?
What are the requirements of Chanukiot according to Jewish Law?
Does this Chanukiya meet those requirements?
On the posterior of the Chanukiya is an image of soldiers fighting in World War I.
In this war Jewish soldiers fought on both sides of the war.
How do you think these Jews might have felt about fighting fellow Jews in the opposing armies?
What do you feel about the fact that Jews were fighting against each other?
Do you and your family light a Chanukiya?
If so, where in the house do you light it and why?
What other traditions do you know about Chanukah?
Why do you think Chanukah is one of the most well-known Jewish holidays in the non-Jewish world?
Find out from your parents or grandparents the most unusual place they have ever lit a Chanukiya and document their story.
Does your family have a Chanukiya with a special story behind it?
Compare this Chanukiya to other Chanukiot such as these.
Imagine the story of how the artist found the shell and used it to make the “trench art” Chanukiya.
Tell your story and the story of the Chanukiya.
Make your own Chanukiya from interesting materials.
Use this for some ideas.