Author: Sam Brady, 13th December 2021

When I first stepped into the WheelPower archive, one item positioned in my eye line immediately caught my attention. This object is a trophy given to the British Wheelchair Sports Foundation (now known as WheelPower) during the 38th International Stoke Mandeville Games in 1994 (World Wheelchair Games) by the visiting Israeli team. While there are other trophies and statues in the collection, this one stood out to me in particular. This is because, as you can see below, the object in question is a Hanukkiah.

© WheelPower Stoke Mandeville Stadium Archive. 

The image shows a gold and silver statue. The front of the trophy is made up of nine candle holders, and the middle one is raised higher than the rest. Behind the candle holders is a harp or lyre shape, made up of three vertical pillars and two curved pillars on either side. The statue is attached to a dark brown wooden base, which is engraved.

It reads: "British Wheelchair Sports Foundation with gratitude and appreciation. Israeli Team – Stoke Mandeville Games 1994.

For the uninitiated, a Hanukkiah is the nine-candled lamp used during Chanukah, the Jewish festival of light. As a Jewish person, finding this type of object in the collection was especially exciting. It gives me a personal connection to this object, but also, as the festival of Chanukah happened at the start of December 2021 – around the time I started researching and writing this blog post – it held extra significance. But more so, this item is a physical reminder of the many Jewish connections to the Paralympics. 

The most obvious Jewish connection to the Paralympics is Professor Sir Ludwig Guttmann himself, who was a German Jew. As the Nazis rose to power in the early 1930s, Guttmann found his professional pursuits limited due to rising legal antisemitism. Eventually, he became head of the Jewish hospital in Berlin, as he was unable to practice medicine in mainstream hospitals, and here he helped other Jews escape Germany.[i] Eventually, he and his family were able to flee Nazi-occupied Germany and settled in the United Kingdom, where his work and the Paralympic movement began proper. Whilst Guttmann’s personal Jewish identity is not often spoken about, it is more than likely that his experiences of persecution helped him empathise with the struggles of disabled people in the mid-twentieth century.

Furthermore, it is worth noting that Israel, the world’s only Jewish state, has played an important role in the Paralympics. Israeli doctors and rehabilitation professionals were among the first to embrace Guttmann’s ideas around disability sport, and Israeli athletes were frequently involved in early international competitions at Stoke Mandeville. Tel Aviv, in fact, was the third city to host the Paralympics in 1968, after the Mexican government withdrew due to technical difficulties.[ii] Interestingly, Israel remains the only country in the world to have hosted a Paralympic Games but not an Olympic Games.[iii] Since the early days of the movement, Israeli athletes have frequented every Paralympics, highlighting the nation’s enthusiasm for and commitment to the Games.

But, to return to the Hanukkiah in question, I was struck by its design. Behind the candle holders is a harp or lyre shape, made up of three vertical pillars and two curved pillars on either side. This design, however, gave me pause. I wasn’t sure if this shape had any particular relevance to the Paralympics or disabled sport, or any religious or cultural significance in Judaism or Israeli culture. As both a Jewish person and someone immersed in Paralympic history, nothing immediate came to mind. However, in my online research, I stumbled upon some other Hanukkiahs featuring the same or very similar shapes. 

This encouraged me to start researching any religious or cultural significance to this design, as it might tell us something about why this shape of Hanukkiah was used in the gift to WheelPower in 1994. At first, I investigated the only identifiable information on the object, which led me to an engraving company called Avigad, based in Ramat Gan, a city near Tel Aviv. Thankfully, they are still in business, and the owner told me that the lamp itself was made by a company known as Lider, based in Yavne, which is a city in Israel’s central district. Avigad only provided the wooden base and engraving, but passed on their own interpretation of the harp shape. To paraphrase, Avi Spizman, the owner of Avigad, said that the harp or lyre shape represented the music that would be played or songs that would be sung (such as the prayers) during the lighting of the candles.[iv] Personally, I quite like this interpretation, particularly given how important singing is to Jewish prayer customs.

I also contacted Professor Shalom Sabar, a Professor of Jewish Art and Folklore at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who offered a different explanation. Sabar has a collection of around 800 lamps, and designs range from anything between religious motifs, such as the Torah Ark or the Western Wall, to ‘secular’ designs, like aeroplanes, basketball fields and microphones. He told me:

Modern designers of Hanukkah lamps adopted numerous shapes and designs that have nothing to do with Hanukkah or deep symbolism except to evoke the joyous feelings and spiritual uplifting during this holiday. [v]

So perhaps the harp design is not significant is any particular religious way, outside of the feelings the holiday evokes. In some ways, this interpretation aligns with Avi Spizman’s description listed before, as these Hanukkiah designs, whether religious or secular, invoke the joy of the festival of Chanukah.

Professor Sabar also suggested an interpretation that may provide some important cultural significance in Israel. The harp or lyre shape may in fact be a Kinnor, an ancient Israelite musical instrument that appears in the Torah (Old Testament).[vi] The symbol of the Kinnor is used in Israeli culture and is most recognisable due to the Kinor David Awards. These were awards published by Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth between 1964 and 1986, recognising outstanding achievement in entertainment, theatre, film, music, and broadcasting.[vii] In this sense, this shape may be a symbolic, and deeply recognisable, marker of Israeli culture and achievement. So beyond the religious significance in Judaism, there is also a cultural significance for the Israeli team who gifted the object, making this an unmistakable marker of both Judaism and Israel.

“David’s Violin in the City of David”, 25/01/2007. Accessed here: on 06/12/2021.

This image depicts a stone statue of a Kinnor (also referred to as David’s Violin) in the Old City of Jerusalem. Note how similar the design of this statue and our Hanukkiah are!

Of course, the main reason I’ve decided to focus on this object for this blog is due to my own identity and personal connection to this item. This is not the most informative object about the Paralympics in these archives, nor is it especially relevant to my research. But it is still interesting to consider what objects like this represent. In many ways, the most important thing about this object is its original function – a gift to the British Wheelchair Sports Foundation for hosting the 38th International Stoke Mandeville Games in 1994. By its design, the Hanukkiah and harp indicate both who the object is from and the longstanding connections Jewish people have had to Paralympic movement. And, at the very least, it’s a nice-looking Hanukkiah!

[i] Susan Goodman, Spirit of Stoke Mandeville, (Collins, London, 1986)
[ii] International Paralympic Committee, “44th anniversary of 1968 Games”,
[iii] Der Tagesspiegel, “A state with a unique relationship with the Paralympics”:The philosophy of Jewish Paralympics founder Ludwig Guttmann strongly influences Israel”, Translated from German,
[iv] Email exchange with Avi Spizman, 03/12/2021.
[v] Email exchange with Professor Shalom Sabar, 02/12/2021
[vi] Email exchange with Professor Shalom Sabar, 04/12/2021
[vii] Email exchange with Professor Shalom Sabar, 04/12/2021; Wikipedia, Kinor David,