The Menorah Returns, 1951
This image from the Davar newspaper just before Israel’s third Independence Day in 1951 shows the Jews bringing back the Menorah from the Arch of Titus. The Arch of Titus, located in Rome, contains a number of drawings related to the sacking of Jerusalem by the Romans after they destroyed the Second Temple in 70CE. One of the famous images is of the arrival of the Menorah in Rome.
In this drawing, published for Israel’s third Independence Day, the reverse journey is being celebrated. The Hebrew underneath the image means “The Menorah from the Arch of Titus returns home,” and the drawing shows a number of Jewish men, women, and children following four people who are carrying the Menorah. In the background is a representation of the Arch of Titus, showing that the Menorah is leaving exile and returning to the Land of Israel.
The drawing is expressing the belief that the establishment of the State of Israel allowed the Jewish People to begin the process of rejuvenating their national and religious lives. It illustrates the relationship between exile and redemption and places the destruction and rebirth as a historical sequence with the Menorah, which had become the national emblem of the State of Israel, as a symbol of closure.
The Arch of Titus has stood for almost 2,000 years as a sign that Rome destroyed the epicentre of both religious and political life for the Jewish People and started the era of exile. The most famous drawing on the arch features Jewish slaves transporting the Menorah to Rome as a symbol of the Romans’ total victory. Tradition dictated that the Jews of Rome would avoid going under the arch; on the day that the State of Israel was established, they marched under the arch. This time, however, they marched in the opposite direction, carrying Torah scrolls and Israeli flags.
Connection to the Parashat Terumah
In Parashat Terumah, the long process of building the mishkan (tabernacle) begins, and the Jewish People are invited to donate items to partake in the building of the sacred sanctuary which was to transport God’s presence with them to Israel.
One of the larger objects, whose construction is described in painstaking detail, is the Menorah. Over the years, the Menorah became a national symbol of the Jewish People, particularly as the central feature of the story of Chanukah. During the annual eight-day celebration of Chanukah we remember the successful uprising of the Maccabees during the Second Temple period, which led to a further 200 years of Jewish independence in the Land of Israel.
Jewish History teachers can use this drawing to discuss the parallels between the Roman exile and the nineteenth- and twentieth-century return to Israel.
Jewish Studies teachers can show this resource when teaching about the Menorah in Bible lessons, about Parashat Terumah, and about Chanukah.
Media Studies and Art teachers can use this resource to discuss the role of images to mould public opinion and dictate the direction of public discourse.
When was this drawing printed?
In which newspaper was the drawing printed?
Describe what you can see in the drawing.
What is being carried by the people in the front?
Who was the audience for this drawing?
Reading Between the Lines
Where is the Arch of Titus?
Where are the people carrying the Menorah to?
What is the message of the drawing?
Which historical event is this drawing referring to?
Why do you think that the illustrator chose to define the return to Israel in this way?
Find out more about the history of the Arch of Titus.
How do we remember the events depicted on the Arch of Titus today?
Imagine that you are one of the Jewish People in ancient times forced to carry the Menorah to Rome and that you have been transported to Israel in May 1948.
Write a short blog describing your reaction.