ON THE COVER: A menagerie of roaring lions, doll-like elephants, caged birds and free, and even a hen laying an egg enliven this sixth-century C.E. floor mosaic. The mosaic allows to firmly identify the house of worship from which it came—in Nirim, Israel—as a Jewish synagogue. But, it’s not the inclusion of a menorah that gives it away, Richard Pummer explains in “How to Tell a Samaritan Synagogue from a Jewish Synagogue.”
The Samaritans—an offshoot of early Judaism that remained closely related to its religious ancestors—also depicted seven-branched candelabra in their synagogue mosaics. But the Samaritans’ strict interpretation of the second commandment restricted them from depicting animals and birds.