We have concluded our Eretz Yisrael unit. As a culmination the children made a beautiful mizrach sign to hang up in the house. Here is some interesting history:
The custom of facing Jerusalem and the Temple Mount while praying goes back to the biblical account of the prayers of Solomon at the consecration ceremony of the Temple (1 Kings, viii. 38, 44, 48). After the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 586 BCE, offerings were replaced by prayers, recited while facing Jerusalem (Daniel, vi. 10-11).
The custom of gathering for communal prayers in synagogues began no later than during the 3rd century BCE, even before the second Temple was destroyed in 70 CE. Ancient synagogues uncovered in various countries had their most decorated wall in the direction of Jerusalem. The synagogue on Masada (destroyed in 73 CE) shows that the congregation faced Jerusalem when praying. The custom of facing Jerusalem was given the status of an outright instruction in the Talmud (Berachot 30).
Nowadays, the Holy Ark with the Torah is installed in a synagogue in the general direction of Jerusalem so all congregants face Jerusalem during the ceremony.
The main part of the three daily prayers constitutes a series of blessings and is called either “Shmoneh-Esreh”, after the original 18 blessings, or “Amidah”, as it is said standing, facing Jerusalem.
Once most Jews in exile lived west of Jerusalem and would face east, or “Mizrach” when praying. To help them face the correct direction for prayer even after several generations in the Diaspora, many people began to hang a decorative plaque with the word “Mizrach” on an eastern wall within their homes.
Please help your child find “Mizrach” in your house.