A Hanukkah miracle: Hikers discover menorah engraving in Judean hills

The menorah engraved on the wall (Photo: Saar Ganor/Israel Antiquities Authority)

The Israel Antiquities Authority announced the discovery by hikers over the Hanukkah weekend an ancient engraving of menorah, a seven-branched lamp stand, on the walls of a water cistern in the Judean hills.

Members of the Israel Caving Club went spelunking in a previously unexplored cave and found a cistern with dovecotes as well as iconic etchings and engravings on a nearby cave wall. They immediately reported this find to the Israel Antiquities Authority because they realized the importance and significance of their discovery.

Few symbols say “Jewish” like the menorah. Instructions for the design of the lamp stand are found in Exodus 25 and it became synonymous with both the First and Second Temple eras. Experts say that to find a wall engraving of a menorah is rare. It corroborates scientific research regarding Jewish history and the demographics at the time of the Second Temple period.

That this was discovered during Hanukkah is quite symbolic.

Menorahs have been found on ancient clay lamps and other pieces of pottery but previous to this discovery, only two other engravings of menorahs have been found in this part of the Judean hills.

The base of the lamp stand etching is 3 feet long, which scientists say is a depiction of the menorah that was in the Second Temple in Jerusalem. The District Archaeologist of Ashkelon in the Israel Antiquities Authority Saar Ganor believes that the menorah was most likely etched onto the walls of the cistern around the time of Bar Kokhba. The dovecote also known as a columbarium is typical of the Second Temple time where doves and pigeons were an integral part of the sacrificial system for the Jewish people. Alongside the lamp stand was a cross which could have been added any time after that, as late as the fourth century.

The Israel Antiquities Authority will not reveal the exact location of the cave system to protect it and also to keep hikers safe. The hikers who made the discovery will be awarded a good citizenship certificate and get to participate in upcoming events in the area.

“Make a lampstand of pure gold. Hammer out its base and shaft, and make its flowerlike cups, buds and blossoms of one piece with them. Six branches are to extend from the sides of the lampstand – three on one side and three on the other. Three cups shaped like almond flowers with buds and blossoms are to be on one branch, three on the next branch, and the same for all six branches extending from the lamp stand. And on the lampstand there are to be four cups shaped like almond flowers with buds and blossoms. One bud shall be under the first pair of branches extending from the lampstand, a second bud under the second pair, and a third bud under the third pair – six branches in all. The buds and branches shall all be of one piece with the lampstand, hammered out of pure gold. Then make its seven lamps and set them up on it so that they light the space in front of it. Its wick trimmers and trays are to be of pure gold. A talent of pure gold is to be used for the lampstand and all these accessories. See that you make them according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.” 
Exodus 25:31-40