The first post offices in the Holy Land were established by the European great powers, by arrangement with the Sublime Porte, in the mid-19th century (see *Israel: Postal Services for further details).
The following post offices were established by the European powers:
(a) French Post Offices. There were three French post offices in Ereẓ Israel. The office in Jaffa was opened in June 1852, while those in Jerusalem and Haifa were opened in 1900 and 1906, respectively. The postage stamps of France were in use until 1885, when they were replaced by stamps specially issued for the French post offices in the Levant.
(b) Austrian Post Offices. The post offices in Jaffa and Haifa were opened in 1854 and that in Jerusalem in 1859. Postage stamps were introduced in 1863 with the issues of Lombardo-Venetia, followed in 1867 by the first stamps for the Austrian post offices in the Levant.
(c) Russian Post Offices. The Russian post offices in Ereẓ Israel were in Jaffa, Jerusalem, Acre, and Haifa.
The period of the Turkish post offices ended with the conquest of Ereẓ Israel by General Allenby (1917–18). The British then opened post offices, staffed by army personnel, in the principal towns and cities. At that time there were no postal facilities for the civilian population, and the inhabitants of Ereẓ Israel were unable to communicate with their relatives and friends abroad. Cut off from the outside world for a long time, the people of Ereẓ Israel eagerly awaited the resumption of postal services. On Dec. 9, 1917, approval was given by the military authorities for printing the first stamp under the British occupation. This stamp, first issued on Feb. 10, 1918, bears the initials eef ("Egyptian Expeditionary Forces") and cost one piaster. A total of 338,881 of these stamps were printed on ungummed paper, and they remained in use until July 1, 1920. In addition, 20 separate stamps of various monetary denominations, all appearing with the same basic design, were issued. The Civil Administration replaced the Military Administration on July 1, 1920, when the letters oet (or oetaeef), the abbreviation for "Occupied Enemy Territory Administration, Egyptian Expeditionary Force," were removed from the obliterators used in all post offices. It was decided by the government to issue stamps bearing inscriptions in the then official languages of the country: English, Hebrew, and Arabic. The inscription on these stamps, issued in September 1920 in the official languages, read "Palestine"; the Hebrew inscription having the additional letters א״י (the abbreviation for Ereẓ Israel) added after the word "Palestine" (פלשתינה א״י). These stamps were used in various overprints, until the appearance in 1927 of the only pictorial set to be issued by the British government, and which continued in use until the State of Israel was established in 1948. This pictorial issue had four basic designs: Rachel's Tomb near Bethlehem for the 2, 3, and 10 mil values; the Dome of the Rock in the Old City of Jerusalem for the 4, 6, 8, 13, and 15 mil values; the Tower of David near Jerusalem's Jaffa Gate for the 5, 7, and 20 mil values; and Tiberias and the Sea of Galilee for the 50, 90, 100, 200, 250, 500 mil, and £ p1 values. Three sets of postage due stamps were also issued; these stamps were normally used to collect charges on taxed letters or letters with insufficient postage.
On the departure of the British in April–May 1948, many of the post offices were taken over by the Minhelet ha-Am, and, from May 15, 1948, by the Government of Israel. During the War of Independence communications were extremely difficult, and from time to time the supply of postage stamps ran out. In order to overcome this shortage and to continue a regular postal service until the Government of Israel could supply the new stamps, many issues of a local and provisional nature appeared. Noteworthy among these, and eagerly sought by philatelists, are the Jewish National Fund labels overprinted with the word Do'ar ("Post") and the local issues of Safed, Rishon le-Zion, and Petaḥ Tikvah. On May 9, 1948, while Jerusalem was under siege, the first set of local Jerusalem stamps were issued. These were jnf stamps showing the map of Ereẓ Israel with the frontiers of the Jewish State and the "International" city of Jerusalem as proposed by the United Nations in its decision of Nov. 29, 1947. Overprinted with the word Do'ar and their value in mils in Hebrew lettering, the stamps were in use until June 20, 1948, when the stamps of the State of Israel became available.
The first stamps issued by the State of Israel were printed on a small letter-press machine under strict secrecy. On May 16, 1948, the Do'ar Ivri ("Hebrew Post") stamps bearing pictures of ancient Jewish coins were put on sale throughout Israel. Since the name of the new state was not known until the Proclamation of Independence on May 15, the designation Do'ar Ivri was used. The nine values of this first set are today a highly prized collector's item. From 1948 to the end of 2005 Israel produced a total of 1,827 stamps, including souvenir sheets and special issues. Their attractive and colorful designs have won them international recognition. The definitive series of ancient coins, the twelve tribes, the signs of the zodiac, and emblems of the towns and cities of Israel; airmail issues of birds, landscapes, and exports of Israel; annual Jewish New Year and Independence Day commemoratives; and many other fascinating subjects have introduced Israel to philatelists throughout the world. Many philatelic clubs, both in Israel and abroad, are devoted to the study of the postal history of Ereẓ Israel. Collections of Ereẓ Israel stamps are regularly displayed at philatelic shows such as at the Philympia exhibition in London, where a number of exhibitors of Ereẓ Israel stamps were awarded medals. Israel stamps are much in demand, and the early issues, for example, sell for high prices. They have also been a considerable source of revenue to the state.
[Moshe Hesky /
Jews and Judaica on Stamps
Over the years philatelists the world over have increasingly devoted their collections to a single theme, subject, or country. One such thematic category is "Judaica" and "Jews on Stamps." These stamps, issued by Israel and many other countries, depict religious symbols and objects, synagogues, portraits of famous Jews in all walks of life, sites of significance in Jewish history, Bibles, statues of and by Jews, and almost every aspect of life connected with Judaism and Jews. There are a number of enthusiasts all over the world who devote themselves to this aspect of stamp collecting, and who have united themselves into societies. One of these publishes the Judaica Historical Philatelic Journal in the U.S.
Among the subjects in the Judaica collection are the following:
Statesmen: Benjamin Disraeli, Walther Rathenau, Paul Hymans, and President Zalman Shazar (on a Brazilian stamp issued in honor of his visit to that country in 1966).
Scientists and Scholars: Heinrich Hertz, Armin Vámbéry, David Schwarz, Robert von Lieben, Ferdinand Widal, Walemar Haffkine, Otto Lilienthal.
Philosophers: Henri Bergson, Maimonides.
Artists: Isaac Levitan, Amadeo Modigliani, Marc Chagall, Mark Antokolsky.
Actors: Rachel, Sarah Bernhardt.
Poets and Writers: Heinrich Heine, Shalom Aleichem, Ḥ.N. Bialik.
Other subjects include the Bible; Hebrew letters (on the stamps of the un, Russia, Denmark, and Jordan); and synagogues of Prague, Surinam, Cochin, Panama, and the Netherlands Antilles. A field of special interest to collectors of Judaica is the period of the Holocaust, including antisemitic issues, and the Ghetto stamps.
[Alan Karpas and
M.J. Wurmbrand (comp.), in: Philatelic Literature Review, 5, no. 3 (1955); H.F. Kahn, in: Postal History Journal (Jan. 1966), incl. bibl.; I. Livni, Livni's Encyclopedia of Israel Stamps.Catalogue 1969 (Heb. and Eng. 1968); London. Mosden Stamp Company. Catalogue of the Postage Stamps of the State of Israel (1959); idem, Holy Land and Middle East Philatelic Magazine; Holy Land Philatelist: Israel's Stamp Monthly (Tel Aviv); Israel Philatelist: Official Organ of the Israel Philatelic Exchange Club (Tel Aviv); Simon's Catalogue of Israel Stamps (Heb.). add. bibliography: Stamps of Israel Encyclopedia and Catalogue,cdd-rom (1998); M. Arbell, The Spanish and Portuguese Jews in Postage Stamps (1988).