Jews are not famous for being seafarers. Yet, they played an important role in the development and improvement of the instruments and charts used by explorers to navigate the seas. Rabbi Jacob ben Machir improved the quadrant, originally designed in the 12th century. In the 14th century, Rabbi Levi ben Gershon of Bagnols, France, devised a new quadrant which was used by Vasco da Gama, Magellan, and Christopher Columbus in their explorations. Jewish cartographers in Majorca, headed by the Crescas family, provided the geographical information on which the explorers so depended. Christopher Columbus' crew consisted of a number of men of Jewish origin. His expedition was equipped with astronomical tables and instruments developed by Abraham Zacuto of Portugal, and other Jewish scientists. Zacuto's tables were also used by Vasco da Gama, Pedro Alvares Cabral, Joao de Nova and Albuquerque the Great.
As a modern state with a long coastline and many enemies, Israel had to develop and maintain modern merchant marine and navy. The old stereotype of the Jew shying away of seafaring had to be retired as well. Today, ZIM Integrated Shipping Ltd – established in 1945 and one of the largest, leading carriers in the global container shipping industry – is an Israeli-owned company, belonging to Israel Corporation Ltd which aquired it in 2004 from the Israeli Government.
The 10 and 20 prutot (pruta was a denomination of Israeli currency in the 1950's, pl. prutot) stamps of the Israeli Shipping series appear with the Hebrew article (see the previous entry).
The 10 prutot stamp depicts an ancient ship of Biblical times. On the tab is the drawing of a boat found in the catacombs of Beit Shearim. The tab inscription is: " … a navy of ships …" (I Kings 9: 26).
The 20 prutot stamp in the shipping series depicts the Nirit, which was used in 1948 to bring immigrants and volunteers to fight in the Independence War (GACHAL - Recruitment in the Diaspora). It is also typical of the smaller ships used in the Ha'apala - the clandestine immigration into Palestine before the establishment of Israel. On the tab is a flag bearing a Magen David in an oval - the flag of the Israeli Merchant Marine (but in green instead of blue). The tab inscription is: " … the way of a ship in the midst of the sea" (Proverbs 30: 19).
The 30 prutot stamp in the shipping series depicts the cargo ship Shomron (served in ZIM in the 1950's). The tab inscription is " … like the merchant ships … " (Proverbs 31: 14).
The 1,000 prutot stamp in the shipping series depicts the ZIM passenger ship, Zion (served in the 1950's and 1960's). In 1953, ZIM embarked on an era of global expansion that lasted 15 years, with the acquisition of 36 passenger, cargo, bulk-carrier and container ships, and the launch of a range of passenger and cargo services. ZIM discontinued its passenger services in the late 1960s, as air travel became more popular and accessible. On the tab is shown the ZIM flag and the inscription: " … that hath made the depths of the sea a way for the redeemed to pass over" (Isaiah 31: 16).
The four stamps of the Israeli Shipping series were issued in 1958. Designer: M. Karoly.