War and strife set the tone for the subjects on the Knesset Menorah.
This is a 4.5-metre-high bronze by the British artist Benno Elkan (1877–1960) situated directly opposite the parliament building in Jerusalem, Israel. Utilizing biblical narratives, symbolic figures, and historical events (including some very recent ones) in twenty-nine relief panels, the dominant theme of this seven-branched menorah is the foundation of the modern State of Israel. Moses towers over the seven ascending panels of the central column with the vision of Ezekiel 37 firmly planted in the middle, just exactly above eye level.
Elkan’s vision of Ezekiel’s prophecy concentrates on the role of the heroic prophet himself, seen here as a prime mover in the resurrection of the Jewish people. The prophet is young and energetic, coolly caught up in the matrix of the unfolding prophecy as the animating wind sweeps down from the sky above. That there is a Divine voice commanding the prophet to address the bones is not easy to discern. It is barely reflected in the prophet’s calm gaze. Below him the skeletal bones are struggling in an agony of revivification, death literally still clinging to their substance. Their skulls grimace in the pain of re-awakening, as though reflecting the daily struggles of Israeli pioneers labouring to forge a new Jewish state in the face of economic hardship and hostile regional resistance.
This youthful, clean-shaven prophet looks much like the ideal Zionist kibbutznik, emerging heroically from the skeletal figures who seethe beneath him, and who seem still attached to the earth itself. Ezekiel advances through the field of stirring bones, his outstretched hands in reassuring gestures; collecting the reborn together while offering a peaceful blessing that extends to all the visitors who view the menorah.
McBee, Richard. 2009. ‘A Light Unto The Nation: Benno Elkan’s Knesset Menorah: Review, 14 January 2009’, www.JewishPress.com, [accessed 4 November 2018]
37 The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley; it was full of bones. 2And he led me round among them; and behold, there were very many upon the valley; and lo, they were very dry. 3And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord God, thou knowest.” 4Again he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. 5Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. 6And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.”
7 So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold, a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to its bone. 8And as I looked, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. 9Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” 10So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great host.
11 Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are clean cut off.’ 12Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you home into the land of Israel. 13And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. 14And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken, and I have done it, says the Lord.”