The port city of Elat (also spelled Eilat, and Eloth in the past), on the shores of the Red Sea at the northern tip of the Gulf of Elat (aka Gulf of Aqaba), is Israel's southernmost city. Its beaches, coral reef, nightlife and desert landscapes and climate, together with its highly developed tourism infrastructure of hotels (11,000 rooms as of 2012) and an international airport, make it a very popular destination for both domestic and international tourism. Elat is home to about 60,000 people (as of 2012).
As an Israeli port city, Elat was placed on the map of history by the wisdom and ingenuity of King Solomon. The Scriptures record that "King Solomon made a navy of ships in Ezion-geber, which is beside Eloth on the shore of the Red Sea, in the land of Edom" (I Kings 9:26). In partnership with Hiram, king of the sea-faring Tyrians, Solomon maintained a fleet of ocean-going ships in the sheltered Red Sea gulf. Every third year the city awaited the return of Solomon's "Tarshish" fleet, richly laden with "gold, silver, ivory, apes, and peacocks."
In ancient times many routes converged on the Red Sea port making it a welcome resting place for travelers and traders on the great Spice route out of Arabia. Tradition assigns one of these ancient routes to the Children of Israel coming from Kadesh Barnea "by way of the Red Sea to compass the land of Edom from Eloth and Etzion-geber."
Elat of King Solomon's day not only hummed with the comings and goings of caravans and maritime traders, it was, too, the site of the first planned industrial town in Israel. Excavations conducted in 1939 revealed the foundry town of Etzion-geber. Here the copper, mined in the Timna valley, was smelted. The design of Etzion-geber was based on the most advanced engineering and. construction "know-how" of ancient times.
The industrial settlement, complete with foundries and workers' quarters, was situated at the open end of a closed valley where it was flayed by the strong winds typically blowing from the north - climatically the most uncomfortable spot on the gulf. An intricate system of air flues built into the walls of the town showed why Solomon's engineers chose this particular spot: they required the fierce northern winds for the heating of the giant smelting furnaces.
Solomon's foundry town was later destroyed by fire. After his death Elat passed back and forth between the Israelites and the Edomites. During the reign of Jehoshaphat, Solomon's grandson, Elat was restored for a brief period as a trading and industrial center. Jehoshaphat, in an attempt to enjoy the trade with Ophir, built a fleet of ships at Etzion-geber. His plan failed as the ships were wrecked in a storm off the coast.
Changing geopolitical forces have constantly determined the character of Elat. The Romans regarded Elat, or Aila as they called it, as the key to the Negev. The Roman Emperor Trajan, famed for his remarkable construction works, built the Imperial Road which linked Jerusalem to Elat on the fringe of the Red Sea. In the economic warfare between the Byzantines and the Persians, Elat played a strategic role. From the Red Sea port the Byzantines succeeded in controlling much of the rich trade with India and Africa. The opening of new trade routes to India in the sixteenth century diverted sea traffic and commerce from the Red Sea port. Elat became a deserted outpost of the Turkish-Ottoman Empire.
Side-stepped by the march of time for some 3,000 years, Elat returned to history when the separation of Mandatory Palestine and Transjordan in the 1920s necessitated the establishment of a small police station there, at that time just a small point on the shores of the Red Sea known as Um Rashrash. In the Uvda operation, which marked the end of Israel’s Independence War, Elat was taken from the Jordanian army practically without fight. The soldiers, who discovered they did not have a flag at hand, quickly improvised a flag by drawing in ink on a bed sheet (the photo of this ink flag being raised in Um Rashrash is one of the most famous pictures from Israel’s Independence War). The commanders of the two brigades that reached Elat sent a telegram to Yigal Alon, the southern front commander: "Inform the government of Israel ... the Palmach Negev brigade and the Golani brigade hand over the Gulf of Elat to the State of Israel. Elat (the 9th of Adar, 10.3.1949, 16:00 hours)."
Merchant marine ships started to visit Elat in 1950. After the Sinai Campaign of 1956, which brought to an end the Egyptian blockade of the Gulf of Elat, the city made great strides in its economic and civic development. The "old port" opened in 1956 and was replaced by the new port in 1965. Today, the port is used mainly for trading with Far East countries, primarily to import cars and export fertilizers.
The stamp was issued in 1962. Designer: F. Stern.