The logo of the Gildenhorn Institute was chosen in an open competition in the fall of 2009. The winner received, as promised, a free round-trip ticket to Israel.
The logo itself represents a pomegranate in the shape of a letter “G”, in honor of our benefactors, Joseph and Alma Gildenhorn. The dots in the middle represent the pomegranate’s seeds. Some people, however, have asked…
Why the Pomegranate?
The Pomegranate (Rimon in Hebrew) is one of the Seven Species (Hebrew: שבעת המינים, Shiv’at Ha-Minim), which are the types of fruits and grains enumerated in the Bible (Deuteronomy) as being special products of the Land of Israel. Many Jewish scholars believe it was the pomegranate that was the “forbidden fruit” of the Garden of Eden. Later, as the Children of Israel searched for the Promised Land, they consulted a list of clues to prove they had arrived. The list? Wheat and barley, vines and figs, olives and honey, and pomegranates.
Exodus 28:33-34 directed that images of pomegranates be woven onto the hem of the me’il (“robe of the ephod”), worn by the High Priest, and 1 Kings 7:13-22 describes pomegranates depicted on the capitals of the two pillars which stood in front of the temple King Solomon built in Jerusalem. It is said that Solomon designed his coronet based on the pomegranate’s “crown” (calyx). The pomegranate is one of the few images which appear on ancient coins of Judea as a holy symbol, and today many Torah scrolls, while not in use, are stored with a pair of decorative hollow silver “pomegranates” (rimonim) placed over the two upper scroll handles.
The pomegranate is, in fact, a very “loaded” symbol. In the past it had many traditional Jewish facets; more recently it has acquired modern Israeli ones. Jewish tradition teaches that the pomegranate is a symbol for righteousness, because it is said to contain exactly 613 seeds, which corresponds with the 613 mitzvot (commandments) of the Torah. For this reason and others, it is a widespread custom to eat pomegranates on Rosh Hashanah although, of course, the actual number of seeds varies with each individual fruit.
The pomegranate also represents knowledge, learning, wisdom, study and good memory, all characteristic of the education and research that are so relevant to our Institute. Indeed, there is a very common Hebrew expression that wise, well-read, and learned people are “are as full as the rimon”.
Moreover, the pomegranate has always been a symbol of fruitfulness and we now find that recent scientific research strongly recommends eating it for its healthful (antioxidant) qualities. Modern Israeli culture (particularly the non-religious community) has readopted this particular symbol not only because of its beauty and long-time characteristics, but also because of its positive connotations and its “green” aspect, which fits well with the environmental movement.
Some may be surprised to learn that it has a very different connotation as well. The Hebrew word for hand grenade is also rimon, because it is shaped very much like the fruit. This gives it an element of power and strength, in addition to its spiritual and intellectual attributes.
Thus, the pomegranate, although its imagery originally derived from the Bible and Jewish tradition, is now one of the most important symbols that secular Israelis identify with. Other important symbols, such as the Menorah and the Magen David are official symbols of the State, and have in recent years been appropriated to some degree by religious ultra-nationalists. The pomegranate, which has just as good a Jewish pedigree, is seen as a more open, modern, younger, contemporary, and “in” icon.
For all of these reasons, we feel that many of the pomegranate’s qualities are those we seek to develop in our work at the Gildenhorn Institute.