The Holy Land
The Byzantine period (326 – 636 CE) saw the building of numerous churches and synagogues. Though Jerusalem appears to have been off-limits to Jews, the two monotheistic religions Christianity and Judaism, existed side by side, in competition, but with much in common. Comparing the techniques and motifs in contemporary ecclesiastical architecture, mosaics, oil lamps, and coinage reveals a rich variety of imagery and even some ideological crossovers. Decorated mosaic floors in synagogues often depicted people, animals and even ostensibly pagan symbols, such as the zodiac. Several such mosaic pavements are vertically displayed along the museum’s long entry forecourt. Other synagogue floors, usually in more rural settings, maintained stricter observance of the Jewish prohibitions of figurative representation. The most common symbols portrayed in synagogue floors and oil lamps of this time were temple furnishings (menorahs and shovels), synagogue fixtures (the ark) and the lulav and etrog used for the Festival of Succoth. From this period on, these attributes were maintained in Jewish art as the emblems of Judaism itself.