The Hebrew Post Stamps
These are the first stamps issued by the State of Israel. No wonder that they are the most expensive Israeli stamps to aquire nowadays if they are in good condition. They were readied before the end of the British Mandate. That meant that the work had to be carried out in secret and in haste. A factor that held back the printing of the stamps for the nascent state was that the Jewish national leadership had not made a final decision on the name of the new country - the name Israel does not appear on the initial printing but rather Do'ar Ivri ("Hebrew post").
The stamps were issued on May 16, 1948, two days after the Israeli Declaration of Independence. The denominations of the stamps are stated in mils, a British Mandate unit that Israel used till 1952.
The images appearing on the stamps are those of coins from the epoch of the Jewish-Roman wars. These coins signify the struggles toward and times of Jewish sovereignty in Eretz Israel. This theme was deemed apt for the situation of the emerging state (in spite of the sad fact that those wars ended in catastrophic defeats and destruction...).
There were nine stamps in the first series:
• The stamp of value 3 mils is of a bronze coin bearing the likeness of a palm tree with seven branches and two clusters of dates. On either side are baskets filled with fruit. Hasmonean coinage, to which this image belongs, dates from 135 to 37 BC. The tab bears a Hebrew phrase meaning "Bronze coin from the period of the Maccabeans or the first revolt" and the Hebrew inscription li-ge’ulat Ziyyon ("For the redemption of Zion").
• The 5 mils stamp shows a vine leaf with small branches and tendrils surrounded by the Hebrew inscription herut Ziyyon ("Freedom of Zion") in ancient Hebrew letters. The tab's Hebrew inscription translates as "Bronze coin from the period of the first revolt" (the Jewish war against Rome, 66-70 AD). The coin's inscription herut Ziyyon is written on the tab in the square Hebrew script.
• The 10 mils stamp is from the third year of the war against Rome and shows an amphora with a wide rim, a lid, and two handles. The image is encircled by the term shenat shalosh ("The Third Year," that is 68/69 AD) in ancient Hebrew script. The tab's Hebrew inscription is "Bronze coin from the period of the first revolt" and the coin's inscription, sh’nat shalosh is written in square Hebrew script. The initial tab was incorrect and was changed to "Coin from the period of the second revolt: 'Year one of the redemption of Israel.'" The tab then had four lines instead of five.
• The 15 mils stamp is a coin from the period of the second revolt (132-135 AD) with the likeness of a cluster of grapes. The tab reads "Coin from the period of the second revolt" and cites the coin's inscription, sh’nat ahat li-ge’ulat Yisrael ("Year one of the redemption of Israel). This descriptive tab was changed by the addition of the Hebrew word for "inscription"; the tab then had five lines instead of four.
• The 20 mils stamp is a silver shekel from first revolt. Seen on it is a chalice with nine pearls on the rim. The Hebrew inscription on the tab reads "Silver shekel from the second year of the first revolt" (67/68 AD) and "Shekel Israel year two".
• The 50 mils stamp bears the likeness of a coin from the time of the second revolt and shows a lulav and etrog (single palm branch and yellow citron respectively, used in the prayers of the holiday of Sukkot). The tab's Hebrew inscription means "Coin from the period of the second revolt"; the coin's inscription cited on the tab, sh’nat akhat li-ge’ulat Yisrael, means "Year one of the redemption of Israel."
• The 250 mils stamp shows both the obverse and reverse of a silver shekel from the second year of the first revolt (67/68 AD). The obverse shows a chalice with nine pearls on its rim; its Hebrew inscription, in ancient script, is shekel Yisrael ("shekel of Israel"). On the reverse appears a stem with three fruits, apparently pomegranates, encircled by the inscription "Jerusalem the Holy." The tab, in square Hebrew script, states "Silver shekel from the second year of the first revolt" and the inscriptions that appear on the coin, "Shekel Israel year two" and Yerushalayim ha-k’doshah ("Jerusalem the Holy").
• The 500 and 1000 mils stamps bear silver shekel coins with the same images as the previous coin but date from the third and fourth year of the first revolt, respectively. The tab inscriptions are "Silver shekel from the third year of the first revolt" and the coin's inscriptions, "Shekel Israel year three" and "Jerusalem the Holy" and "Silver shekel from the fourth year of the first revolt" and the coin's inscriptions, "Shekel Israel year four" and "Jerusalem the Holy."
The stamps were designed by Otte Wallish. They established the tradition that Israeli stamps have tabs.