I have heard that it is prohibited (or at least that the custom is not) to walk under the Arch of Titus in Rome. Is this accurate? If so, what is the source? Would it make a difference if a large group were to march under it in an act of defiance?
My rabbinic sources in Rome tell me that there is no written source, but that this is local minhag. --SF
For centuries, Jews avoided the Arch of Titus, refusing to walk under it and thus to give honor to Titus. The Arch symbolized the debasement of Judaism and the beginning of our woes. This situation was reinforced by the Church, for which the Arch came to symbolize the transfer of Divine authority from Jerusalem to the Church of Rome, and with it, the Divine punishment imposed upon the Jews for rejecting Jesus. Things began to change in the modern world. From the nineteenth century on, Jews came to see the Arch’s Menorah in a much more positive light, as a symbol for Judaism. For Jewish traditionalists and Zionists, its unique form symbolized a hope for national restoration in the Land of Israel. The only “archaeologically accurate” representation of the Temple vessels then known, the Arch was reimagined as a Jewish treasure and a link to a glorious past. Jews reproduced the Arch of Titus Menorah within synagogues and many other communal contexts. After long deliberation, in 1949, the Arch of Titus Menorah was chosen as the symbol for the new State of Israel. Bringing the Menorah “home,” at least figuratively, Israeli authors and artists saw the Menorah as a metaphor for the entire Jewish people, and its reappropriation as Israel’s national symbol as part of the “ingathering of exiles” that the new State saw as its mission.51
51 This history is masterfully related by team member Alec Mishory in his Lo and Behold: Zionist Icons and Visual Symbols in Israeli Culture (Tel Aviv: Yediot Aharonot, 2000), 138-96, in Hebrew. An abbreviated translation appears at: http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/History/emblem.html.
I first accessed this article yesterday (10 Av 5772).