Ranked among the world’s leading art and archaeology museums and one of Jerusalem’s top attractions for Jewish history, the Israel Museum holds countless artifacts that were found throughout Israel and the Jewish Diaspora. Its impressive collection spans the vast history and cultural heritage of both the Land of Israel and the Jewish People from all different time periods, from the Stone Age to the modern era.
Some of the most well-known Israel Museum exhibits are the Shrine of the Book, housing the famous Dead Sea Scrolls and other ancient Jewish manuscripts, as well as the historically accurate, scaled model of Jerusalem in the Second Temple period, which includes the Temple itself.
However, a lesser-known but just as awe-inspiring aspect of the Museum is its historical Hanukkah menorahs collection. See how Jews throughout centuries and around the world celebrated Hanukkah with the Israel Museum’s stunning collection of menorah artifacts!
The Museum holds hundreds of Hanukkah menorahs in its collection, with only some of them available for public viewing. Some of the most interesting and surprising examples include:
1. An ancient Yemenite Hanukkah oil lamp carved into locally quarried stone – showing that Jews always used whatever fireproof materials were available to them!
2. A menorah made by Israeli artist Ludwig Yehuda Wolpert in the 1950s, using leftover scraps from ashtrays that he designed for Israel Railways train cars.
3. Hanukkah menorahs from early 20th-century Central and Eastern European Jewish communities, showing Zionist motifs such as Star of David designs – a bittersweet image of longing for the Land of Israel right before the Holocaust.
4. A Moroccan menorah made out of a repurposed sardine can – a not uncommon method in a country where Jews dominated tin can production.
5. Intricately decorated brass Hanukkah oil menorahs from 18th-century Poland, with a surprising distinctive feature – shabbat candlesticks prominently attached to the sides, which were used year-round.
6. Hanukkah lamps from repurposed brass artifacts, including Prussian army helmets!
7. European Hanukkah menorah designs from the 18th and 19th centuries that evoke benches, sofas, and chairs.
8. Medieval European oil menorahs that were made to be hung up on doors and walls.
Replicas for Home Purchase
Another unique aspect of this impressive collection is that the Israel Museum also makes its own accurate replicas and adaptations of some of the historical menorahs – creating a very special way to connect with and learn about Jewish culture!
Some have been presented to dignitaries around the world, and others are available for sale and fully functional to use in your own Hanukkah celebrations. We have a number available for purchase in our store, and we’ve even compiled a detailed explainer of some of our favorites.
If you love connecting your Jewish rituals to our people’s rich history and heritage, a historical Hanukkah menorah is a truly special and magnificent piece of Judaica to own and cherish!