The recapture of the Western Wall during the Six Day War was an astounding event that overwhelmed Jewish people all over the world. From anticipating the very worst before the war began, within only two days of its commencement, on June 7, 1967, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) conquered the old city of Jerusalem. This historical event was captured on camera by award winning photographer David Rubinger. In his signature photograph Paratroopers at the Western Wall he immortalized the image of three paratroopers- Zion Karasenti, Haim Oshri, and Itizik Yifat standing in silence and wonderment at the holy Western Wall. This image quickly became a symbol of the return of the Jewish people to Zion after 2,000 years in exile and the military strength of the newly founded state of Israel. Israeli author Yossi Klein Halevi has said that it is “the most beloved Jewish photographic image of our time”.
52 years later, jewelry artist Avi Tavisal and founder of the Moriah Collection, commemorated this pinnacle event in Jewish history by carving the iconic picture into stone. And not any stone! This particular stone was recovered from the temple mount itself! Known as ‘Moriah Jerusalem Stone’, it was unearthed as part of the Temple Mount Sifting Project. The Project began in 1999 when the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement conducted unauthorized renovations on the Temple Mount and disposed over 9,000 tons of earth that included invaluable archaeological artifacts. Israeli archaeologists Dr. Gabriel Barkay and Zachi Dvira collected the earth and began sifting through it in 2004. Their findings have been remarkable- they have discovered stone vessels, ancient coins, jewelry, weapons and many more valuable findings, many of which date to the time of the first temple,1000–586 BCE. Avi Tavisal has been part of the project since its founding, and has spent over a decade creating exquisite Judaic jewelry that incorporates Moriah Jerusalem Stone with various precious metals and gems.
The beautiful carving was made with outstanding attention to detail and captures the emotional essence of the photograph. On the soldiers’ faces one can sense the excitement and awe of the moment, as well as their silent prayer that reflects the longing of the entire Jewish people. The eye is naturally drawn to Yifat’s image in the center. Since he is the only one without a helmet, he reveals the “civilian beneath the soldier”.
The gold coin above the soldiers is called the “Victory Coin” and was issued by the Israel Coins and Medals Corporation to mark the victory of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in the Six Day War. On the obverse side it has an emblem of the IDF set against a stylized star, and on the reverse side are the Western Wall and the dates of war.
The piece was presented in April 2019, during the official visit of the three soldiers with Mr. Avi Tavisal and the rest of the team at the Israel Diamond Center (IDC). The former soldiers were touched by the piece, and especially impressed by the fact that it was made from the Moriah Jerusalem Stone.
The carving is on display and available to the general public. If you would like to see it, please visit the Moriah Stone Museum Gallery in the Ramat Gan showroom located at the Israel Diamond Exchange, 1 Jabotinsky, Ramat Gan. Please call 03-5757979 to schedule a tour or visit the Moriah Collection website at www.moriah-collection.com