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VATICAN Confirms Meeting: Rabbis Desire to Search Vatican: Temple Treasures

AP Jan. 15, 2004 | Gavin Rabinowitz

JERUSALEM – Israel’s chief rabbis, who will meet the pope Friday, said they hope to get permission to search Vatican storerooms for artifacts such as the huge golden menorah that stood in the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago.Vatican officials confirmed the meeting would take place but declined comment on the rabbis’ request.

Yehuda Metzger and Shlomo Amar are to have an audience with Pope John Paul II, the first by Israel’s chief rabbis in the Vatican. The pope met Israel’s previous chief rabbis in the Holy Land during his visit in 2000.

Amar, spiritual leader of Israel’s Jews of North African origin, told Army Radio that when he received the invitation, “the truth is I asked them, I could not resist … I asked them about the Temple vessels and the menorah.”

When the Romans sacked Jerusalem in 70 A.D., they took huge amounts of booty home. Legend has it that religious articles from the Temple, including the menorah, were among them.

The Arch of Titus in Rome depicts victorious Roman legions marching off with the seven-branch menorah in hand.

Amar said the Vatican official denied the menorah was there.

“My heart tells me this is not the truth, but that it is some kind of camouflage,” Amar said. An aide to the rabbi said the Vatican was not likely to permit a search.

The Vatican will allow the rabbis to view rare Jewish manuscripts in its possession, Amar said.

He said if the rabbis were to come across “other objects,” they would be happy to bring them home.

The menorah was the most important symbol of the Temple after the Ark of the Covenant. The image of the biblical menorah is the symbol of the modern state of Israel.

Some Orthodox Jews believe the restoration of the menorah and other holy vessels to Jerusalem would be the first step in rebuilding the Temple, whose site is now occupied by the Al Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest shrine of Islam.

The Arch of Titus may not be a correct representation of how the Temple Menorah looked. According to Maimonides, the arms of the Menorah were straight and not curved.

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