Jewish Ark Portal With Symbolic Landscape
Joanna Pinkerton, designer
Rabbi Pinchas Aloof, consultant
The Jewish portal represents the Ark of the Covenant, a cabinet
located on the synagogue wall indicating the direction of
Jerusalem. Housed inside the Ark is the Torah, the scrolls
containing scriptures that are the foundation of the Jewish faith. The
jeweled Crown at the apex of the Ark is the Crown of the Torah.
However, in this Ark it is also the Crown of Creation that represents
the importance of humanity in creation. Human beings, represented by
the inscriptions "Adam" and "Eve" seen on the crown, are obligated to
be the caretakers of creation and to practice ecological
responsibility. Two golden Lions of Judah stand at the top of the Ark
supporting the Ten Commandments, laws given to Moses by God
instructing followers how to live in peace. Each of the Ten
Commandments is symbolized by one of the first ten characters of the
Hebrew alphabet. The Eternal Lamp, representing the
shekinah (eternal glory) of God, hangs as a pendant from
a menorah (a seven branched candle holder).
The wood of the portal columns represents cedar from Lebanon, which
was used by King Solomon to build his temple. The cedar columns are
decorated with the Hebrew names and agrarian symbols of the twelve
months in a year. Each month represents a new season or a cycle of
rebirth and corresponds to one of the twelve tribes of Israel. The
limestone bases of the portal columns are carved with a Star of David
design from the rampart wall of the Old City of Jerusalem. The six
points of the star represent the six days of creation with the flower
in the center representing the seventh day, the Sabbath, a day of
A spiritual glow from the Eternal Light illuminates the scriptural
landscape of Isaiah 11:6- and Micah 4:3-4, a place of peace and
perfection. The hills of Judea representing Israel are seen in the
distance. The lion and lamb rest together in the spirit of wisdom and
understanding. Two fruit bearing trees growing in the desert are the
fig tree and the olive tree, symbols of peace and victory. Olive oil
is also used for its healing properties and for sacrificial offerings
(Lewington, 105-107,162). The grape vine is a source of Sabbath wine
and a symbol of goodness and gladness. Due to destruction of habitat
by urbanization the huge white blooms of the iris
lortetii are only found in four small populations in Israel.
The Israeli government is committed to protecting the few iris that
remain. (Moore, 173).
The endangered male lesser kestrel perches in the fig tree with its
mate soaring in the sky above. Palestinians and Jews have worked
together to protect the kestrel as its numbers have rapidly declined
due to loss of nesting sites and urban development. In the last 52
years, the species' numbers have gone from 3,000 pairs to around 400
pairs today (Copans, 46-50). The mountain gazelle is a very small
animal, measuring 24 inches tall at the shoulders. Less than 30
animals were counted in 1980. The species is endangered due to
urbanization, oil drilling, the effects of war and illegal poaching
(Grolier, Vol 5, 47).
Who is wise? One who learns from everyone.
Who is strong? One who rejoices in his portion.
Who is honorable? One who honors others.
The world is sustained by three things: by truth, by justice and by peace.
It is not your duty to finish the work;
But neither are you at liberty to neglect it.
Wisdom and Ethics from Pirkey Avot,
courtesy of Rabbi Aloof