Israel and India established full diplomatic relations in 1992, after many years of cold and sometimes even hostile relationship. The friendly ties between these two countries have flourished ever since and currently include agricultural cooperation, joint scientific and technological development, water management collaboration, thriving trade and more. The military ties between the two countries are extensive and Israel ranks second as India's supplier of arms. The strong bond between these two ancient civilizations are based on common interests as well as eternal values such as the triumph of truth over falsehood, the triumph of knowledge over ignorance and the triumph of freedom over enslavement.
The stamps represent the good relations between the two countries by referencing the festivals of lights that are being celebrated every year – the Jewish festival of Hanukkah and the Hindu festival of Deepavali. Following is a brief description of these festivals.
Hanukkah commemorates the Maccabean victory over their enemies, the Hellenistic kings of the House of Selvecus, and the miracle that occurred when worship resumed at the Temple in Jerusalem. It is customary to light candles in windows or doorways on each of the eight nights of Hanukkah to make this miracle known.
In 167 BCE, King Antiochus IV forbade the Jewish residents of Eretz Israel to study the Torah and practice the Jewish mitzvoth (commandments). Matityahu the Hasmonean and his sons led the revolt against the cruel rulers, battling heroically and successfully liberating Jerusalem and the Temple.
The Babylon Talmud (Tractate Shabbat 21b) describes how the Maccabees found only one small cruse of pure oil, enough to light the Temple menorah for a single day. A miracle occurred and this oil lasted for eight days, until more pure oil could be prepared. Hanukkah is celebrated for eight days as a reminder of this miracle.
For the Jewish people, the Hanukkah candles symbolize the triumph of good over evil and the victory of justice over injustice. The menorah featured on the stamp was inspired by the wooden menorah used by the Jewish community in Bombay, India.
Deepavali is the most significant and joyful holiday in the Indian year. In ancient Sanskrit, the word "deepavali" means "row of lamps" and it is customary to illuminate homes and streets with thousands of candles, lights and fireworks. The holiday traces back to a story in the ancient book Ramayana, one of Hinduism's most important holy scriptures. The book depicts the adventures of Rama, a prince who was banished from the palace although innocent of any wrongdoing, and his faithful wife, Sita.
The fascinating tale describes Sita's abduction by the demon king Ravana and Rama's quest to rescue her, aided by Hanuman, the monkey prince. The high point of the tale comes after a large battle, as Rama slays the evil demon and he and Sita are invited by his followers to return and rule his father's kingdom. Their route back to the palace was illuminated with thousands of candles and lights.
Indians express the wish that the path of lights which led Rama toward his just victory over his evil enemies shall also guide today's celebrants toward a better life of justice and enlightenment.
The stamps were issued in 2012, a joint Israel - India issue to commemorate 20 years to the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries. Design: Ronen Goldberg (Hanukkah stamp), Elka Sharma (Deepavali stamp).