Ars Judaica

Women in Orans at the Na‘aran Synagogue: Art and Reality

Ars Judaica (1970), 15, (1), 1–14.

Abstract

The ancient synagogue at Na‘aran is adorned with magnificent mosaic carpets whose figural images show iconoclastic damage. Despite this effacement, it is discernible that several figures in the mosaic carpet are depicted with their arms aloft in the orans position. During the Byzantine period – the time of the synagogue’s construction – the orans gesture was an emblematically Christian prayer stance and was thus rarely depicted in Jewish art; its incorporation into the synagogue’s mosaic decoration at Na‘aran is therefore perplexing. Moreover, most of the figures with arms outstretched in the orans position are female and only one is male. This article suggests various directions for understanding this exceptional and unique phenomenon, that touch on both the prominent feminine embodiment of the posture and the theological-polemical aspect of this ancient prayer position.

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Author details

Yuval-Hacham, Noa