Originally part of a synagogue lamp, the hand shape of this brass hamsa is in the David, with the Hebrew letter "Heh" (symbolizing the Divine Name) in the center. The stylized bird is a familiar decorative motif on Jewish ceremonial art from North Africa.
Hamsas, from the Arabic word for five, are fashioned in the shape of a hand displaying all five fingers and are valued for their special protective powers. Hamsas are prevalent throughout Muslim lands.
Amulets protected the wearer, his family and possessions from natural disaster, spells and evil spirits. Some served to cure diseases or barrenness. Others guarded the wearer in his travels, ensured blessings and success, or aroused goodwill or love.