Israel is arguably the center of the world, especially Jerusalem as the center of the religious world. Everywhere you go you will hear multiple different languages, see different cultures. You also may notice that you see some symbols or icons repeatedly through your exploration of the country. But what do they all mean?
Star of David Symbols
The first and most seen of the symbols you will see in Israel is of course the Star of David. The Star of David is a 6 pointed star that is a hexagram and is also known as “Magen David” or the “Shield of David”. It is on the country’s flag and is recognizable the world over as one of the most known symbols of Judaism. Did you know that it didn’t used to be a uniquely Jewish symbol? In medieval times, the star was actually seen more often in Christian churches as decoration. It was not until the 14th century that the star became associated with Judaism significantly in Prague. It slowly spread through Europe over the centuries and was finally officially adopted by the Zionist movement in the 1800s. After its dark history of usage by the Nazis as an identification of Jewish residents during the Holocaust, it became the central symbol of the Israeli flag in 1948. Today, in defiance of the attempt to make it a negative symbol by the Nazis, the Star of David is cherished the most widely spread icon of Judaism.
While the symbol can be seen nearly every where you look in Israel, one place is of particular interest. This is the Star of David seen in Capernaum in the Galilee. The star there is on the synagogue that dates back to the 4th century. At the time it was just an ornamental shape, but it is amazing to see such an old representation of the symbol knowing you are looking at the carving of an unknown artist centuries ago that millions of people have looked at.
The menorah is most known for its association with Chanukah or the “Festival of Lights”, but the menorah was an important part of temple worship long before this. It is a seven-pronged lamp that was used in Tabernacle and Temple worship as prescribed to Moses in Exodus 25:31-40. You will see menorah’s as decorations throughout Israel as carvings, paintings and even on the Israeli Coat of Arms.
Today you can see a reconstructed menorah made by the Temple Institute in preparation for the 3rd Temple. You can see this beautiful piece in the middle of the Jewish Quarter on display in a fortified glass case with high tech security protecting it. It is made completely of gold and following the intense studies of archeological and religious experts. It is worth several million dollars and is ready for immediate use when the Temple is reinstitute.
In Capernaum there is also a carving of a menorah. Other ancient depictions include those on coins and a carving in the synagogue at Magdala called the “Magdala Stone”. The stone is the earliest depiction of a menorah in a synagogue and is believed to have been done by someone who had actually seen the Temple Menorah before the Temple’s destruction in 70 A.D.
The pomegranate is a long-cherished symbol in Israel. It is believed to hold the same amount of seeds as the amount of laws. King Solomon’s Temple was said to have been decorated with 400 pomegranate carvings. His crown was also designed after the fruit. The High Priests bells on his robes were also shaped like pomegranates.
Today you will again see pomegranates in antiquities such as, again, the ruins at Capernaum. They are also found on B.C. era coins. Even a bell that was believed to be from the priestly robes has been found. Pomegranates are still a cherished symbol today, and Immanuel Tours even gives you a keepsake pomegranate when you complete your tour!
Jerusalem Cross Symbols
While the cross is seen around the world as a symbol of Christianity, the Jerusalem Cross is special to Jerusalem. It is not as ancient as some other symbols you see in Israel, as it originated in 11th century. It is made of a central cross with four more crosses in each of the main cross’s quadrants. It is said to represent Christ and the corners of the world. It is most identified its associations to the Kingdom of Israel.
Today you can see the Jerusalem Cross around Jerusalem and the rest of Israel. It is a frequently desired keepsake item to remind people of their time in Jerusalem.
We look forward to welcoming you to Israel and for you to look for these symbols and others throughout your journey. Now is a great time to start planning your Christian Holy Land tour for late 2020, 2021 and 2022!