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December 07, 1962 - Image 17

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1962-12-07

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

• %., „•; ::SS::•: •;::• ::::,

—Photo Courtesy Israel Department of Antiquities

Seven-branched candelabrum and other Jewish ritual ob-
jects (ethrog, lulav, shofar) from the mosaic floor of the
ancient synagogue at Maon (Nirim) of the 6th century C. E.

By HANNAH PETOR
Since the Deutsche Orient-
gesellschaft, at the beginning of
this century, set to work on a
survey of the 11 ancient syna-
gogue ruins excavated in the
Holy Land, our knowledge of
this topic has been enhanced.
With the founding of the State
of Israel, excavation activities
have bene intensified, many sy-
nagogues having been uncovered
in the course of settlement
work. We now have information
about 120 synagogues—in part
in rather fragmentary form or
even only on the basis of liter-
ary sources — that must have
existed in Israel. A recent
drawn map shows the highest
number of sites in Galilee, with
Judaea a close follower-up and
only a small number in Samaria.
This situation is borne out by
ancient writings which report
that after the fall of the Jewish
Commonwealth and the Temple
in Jerusalem, the sages of the
Sanhedrin settled in the moun-
tains of Galilee.
Elaborate Decorations
Synagogues originally were
rooms in private houses where
the community members assem-
bled. Later special buildings
were contsructed, rather as
meeting places for the commu-
nity and these in the course of
time developed into houses of
worship. In the succeeding cen-
turies, with the .growing pros-
perity of the Jewish communi-
ties, these places developed into
representative buildings with
elaborate artistic decorations.
It is striking how, in the con-
struction as well as the inner
architecture, various styles
mingled, united and became
transformed. On the one hand
there was the strong Hellenistic
influence with its serene myth-
ology, later the abstract Byzan-
tine elements arose; on the
other, the rising impact of the
Christian church style which,
however, developed in another
direction.
The synagogue forms, as
found in the region, generally
show the basilica in its varia-
tions, i.e., an oblong building of
varying length, having at one
end a semi-circular apse, while
the entrance door was situated
at the centre of the opposite
wall. The inner hall was divided
into three sections by two rows
of columns running through its
length. No windows existed in
the earlier constructions, the
light entering from above
through the partitions in the
slanting roofs. The later syna-
gogues, however, show five win-
dows in each of the side walls.
The congregation apparently
was seated along the walls,
whilst the Torah shrine stood on
a movable scaffolding in the
centre of the hall. The conjec-
ture that the women were
seated on a kind of emporium is

refuted by the fact that in not
one of the various synagogue
sites have stairs been found.
The women, at all times divided
from the men, were probably
seated on the platform sur-
rounded by columns outside the
main hall, and watched the di-
vine service through the main
door. In later times a special
wing for the use of women was
added to the building. Before
the columned platform there
was usually a spacious court
with stone or marble pavement
and benches.
Mosaic Floors
The outer and inner walls
were later decorated with beau-
tifully carved friezes and wall
paintings. Splendid mosaic floors
usually bore the names of the
donors, either in Aramaic, Greek
or Hebrew. The classical art of
the mosaic received a strong
impulse when, as reported by
the Talmud, Rabbi Abuna gave
his much contested permission
to represent human figures. Sub-
sequently representations of
deities appeared on the pave-
ments, together with local
heathen symbols of hoary an-
tiquity. They were enriched by
motifs taken from the local
landscape, like vines and flower
runners, grapes and pomegra-
nates, as well as domestic ani-
mals and wild beasts, and by
Biblical motifs and devotional
articles like the lulav, the sho-
far, the ethrog and the seven-
branched candelabra. Adorned
by abstract designs, a carpet-
like effect of great beauty was
attained.
The mosaic floor of the Beth
Alpha synagogue, discovered in
1928, as well as that recently
found in Hammat (Tiberias),
bear the symbols of the Zodiac
wheel together with images of
the seasons. The pavement
found at Kibbutz Nirim, where
presumably the flourishing town
of Maon of Talmud times stood,
shows representations of vari-
ous local animals and beasts of
the field in medallion-wise ar-
rangement. The style and exe-
cution of this floor is similar to
that of a Byzantine church dis-
covered in 1917. It allows the
conjecture that both pavements
are the work of the same artist.
More finds which are expected
to be made at the site of Khora-
zim where excavations have re-
cently started. According to
literary sources, the synagogue
there was of a splendid con-
struction and was the gathering
place of a wealthy Jewish com-
munity. It is situated only a few
kilometres away from the beau-
tiful fourth century site of Kfar
Nahum.

Arthritis is our worst crippler.
The nation's arthritics spend a
quarter of a billion dollars an-
nually on quack remedies.

Interfaith Effort
Nets Sifre Torah Ark
for G. I. Post in France

CHINON, France—Two faiths
and two nationalities united to
provide the Jewish members of
the American military commu-
nity here with an ark to house
its Sifre Torah, it was reported
by Chaplain (1st Lt.) Myron E.
Geller, who is stationed at
Poitiers and serves U.S. troops
in southwestern France.
Chaplain Geller mentioned
the need for an ark to Chinon's
Protestant Chaplain (Capt.)
Williard P. Moore, Chaplain
Moore, well-known as a go-
getter around the Military
Depot at Chinon, secured the
approval of the post comman-
der, Col. Joseph I. Gurfein, and
the project was on.
The French draftsman em-
ployed by the post engineers,
M. Olivary, designed a hand-
some blonde wood ark. Marc
Moreau, a local civilian who
works for the post Care and
Preservation Branch, turned out
the finished product in a
month, working in his spare
time.

Morocco Bans Anne Frank Film

(Direct JTA Teletype Wire to The Jewish News)

CASABLANCA—A film on the fate of Anne Frank,
which has been showing at some theaters in Morocco, was
banned Wednesday and the Jewish functionary who ap-
proved it for showing has been suspended. The name of the
functionary was not disclosed. At the same time, the
American-made films "Ben Hur" and "The Ten Command-
ments" also were prohibited in Morocco.

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17 - THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS -- Friday, Decemb er 7, 1962

Ancient Israeli Synagogues

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