Photo: Natan Rapaport.
In the middle of the forest, near Moshav Kisalon, there is a monument that towers above the trees to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust. It was constructed by KKL JNF in 1968 and it is situated in a location with breathtaking views of the Judean Hills, the Judean Plain and the southern part of the Coastal Plain.
It would be difficult to imagine a better location for the beautiful memorial than the landscape of Martyrs Forest. The large bronze monument, which towers at 8.5m and weighs about twelve tons, was wrought by sculptor Nathan Rapoport (1911 1987). It is shaped like a double Torah scroll and tells the history of the people of Israel in relief. One scroll depicts the destruction of the nation in the time of the Romans and in the time of the Holocaust of European Jewry, and the other scroll depicts the rebirth—the ingathering, the war for independence, the establishment of the State of Israel and the unification of Jerusalem after the Six Day War. It is the largest sculpture in Israel cast in bronze and was brought in sections from Italy.
An aerial view of the monument reveals a figure eight, the symbol of infinity. In Judaism, the number eight—unlike seven, which symbolizes order and reason as exemplified by the Sabbath, the Sabbatical year and so on—expresses the unpredictable, and the scroll leads its viewers from annihilation to redemption. When facing the memorial, the sequence begins on the scroll to the right. The lower section has people walking to the camps and the ghettos. Among them is Janusz Korczak (1878 1942) with his pupils and some women in front of them. Above them, facing, upward, ghetto resistance fighters are depicted fighting the Nazi enemy, but there are no visible Germans. They figure only as symbols, such as a steel helmet and tanks. There are Jewish resistance fighters with simple weapons and farther along a menorah, encampments and a flag, and the illegal voyages by boat to the land of Israel. This part of the sculpture projects optimism, and the characters exude confidence. They are on their way to Israel, not to the death camps.
Photo: KKL-JNF Archive.
The second scroll depicts the revival of the nation of Israel, from the War of Independence until the liberation of Jerusalem during the Six Day War, also portraying battles but with a different atmosphere. A soldier parts from a woman and goes to the front. A new immigrant is given weapons and discards the rucksack of his wanderings. There are war scenes and just like in the famous photo, a paratrooper weeps at the Western Wall. The second scroll ends with a story that moves upward, a menorah being transported on a triumphal march, as a kind of “answer” to the scene on the Arch of Titus, where the Roman soldiers are taking the menorah. Above the Western Wall there are images of King David and the prophet Elijah, and there are many symbols of the repatriation of the land of Israel—a water tower, an orange tree, an olive tree, a boy holding a cluster of grapes.
There are two other works by Nathan Rapoport in two other places in Israel—a sculpture of Mordecai Anielewicz (1919-1943), the commander of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, in Kibbutz Yad Mordechai, and a memorial in the Negba Military Cemetery that symbolizes the connection between Israel’s defenders, both soldiers and civilians.
The Scroll of Fire can be reached from Highway 395, the road from Eshta’ol Junction to Tzuba. Turn off at the exit to Moshav Kisalon, but, before the entrance to the moshav, continue and follow the signs to the monument.