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    History & the chanukiyyah

    chanukiyyah chanukiya menora chanukah hannukahThere are many keys to Jewish history. Our books, our prayers, our songs, our food – certainly our chanukiyyot. You discover where Jews have been by looking at their Chanukah lights.

    You find a Moroccan chanukiyyah in the shape of an Andalusian mosque and European chanukiyyot in the shape of Gothic cathedrals. You get the political picture when you see chanukiyyot bearing the seals, coats of arms, cyphers and flags of an array of rulers and regimes. You find musical menorot that play “God Save the Queen” and other national anthems, not to forget menorot that play the Hatikvah.

    Architectural styles and artistic symbols reflect the milieu where Jews have lived. And of course there are Jewish motifs such as Biblical heroes, palm trees, lions of Judah, the Ten Commandments, the twin columns that stood outside the entrance to the Jerusalem Temple, the crown of the Torah, even the synagogue Ark.

    A London silversmith of 1712 created a menorah that shows the prophet Elijah explaining to an Israelite woman how to fill her vessels with oil. After the First World War someone designed a menorah in which the candle-holders were spent bullet cases. Earlier, 18th century menorot were made from the metal hats of soldiers who fought in the Seven Years’ War, and some bore military insignia. Not that European countries allowed professing Jews to serve as soldiers, though there were Jewish traders who supplied the wants of the troops.

    In Britain it was not until the late 1880s that professing Jews could officially enlist in the army, which basically removed the final restriction on Jews in public life.

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