The Halls of the Knights in Acre

The Order of the Knights Hospitaller, also known as the Order of the Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem, developed in Jerusalem in the early 12th century around the church hospital building located south of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

Members of the Order swore to dedicate their lives to helping Christian pilgrims who came to Jerusalem during the Crusader period, to provide them with medical care and to protect them from bandits and attackers along their route. In 1187, following the Crusader defeat in the Battle of Hattin, the Hospitaller's were forced to leave Jerusalem and moved to Acre.

The city of Acre served as the capital of the Crusader kingdom from 1191-1291. The city was divided into quarters which were inhabited by the military Orders (the Hospitallers, the Templers and the Teutonics) and the Italian commercial communes. Each of these groups built grand buildings within its own area, reflecting Acre's status as one of the most important cities in the world at the time.

The Knights' Halls built by the Hospitallers in Acre were unearthed in archeological excavations and have become a popular tourist site.

The most impressive building in the complex is the Order of the Knights Hospitallers' dining room (the refectory). Its domes and arches intersect in the gothic style that developed in France and Italy in the 12th century and also appeared in Acre during that period.

In 1291, Acre was conquered by the Mamluks and completely destroyed. The Hospitallers resided in Cyprus for some 20 years until they conquered the island of Rhodes from pirates in 1310, and there established their center which lasted for some 200 years until they were forced out by the Turks.

In 1530 the Hospitallers were granted control of the island of Malta by Roman Emperor Charles V and founded a sovereign state. The members of the Order successfully prevented Malta from being conquered by the Turks, and went on to found a new city called Valletta, in honor of their leader. On the edge of the city, overlooking the Port of Valletta, they built a huge hospital. Today the building serves as the Mediterranean Conference Centre, which can accommodate 1400 visitors in modern halls that preserve a sense of the past.

The stamp displays the Hospitallers' refectory in Acre (right side) and one of the halls in the Hospitaller Hospital in Valletta (left side).

In some history books (and on many websites) one can find the story about the Ottoman Sultan Ibrahim I, “The Mad”, who ordered his fleet in 1645 to attack Malta. But the Admiral of the Fleet wanted out. Accidentally-on-purpose, he placed a candle on his naval map, such that the wax dripped onto where Malta was marked. The historical expression ‘Malta yok’ – Malta does not exist in Turkish – was born, and the fleet sailed off to attack the Venetians in Crete instead.

As far as Israel is concerned though, Malta is not yok at all, and diplomatic relations between the two countries have existed since 1964. As a matter of fact, friendly and cooperative relations between the Jewish people and the Phoenicians, the ancient inhabitants of Malta, are biblical.

There was apparently already a Jewish community in Malta before the Christian era and during the Middle Ages it is estimated that Jews made up approximately one third of the population of Mdina, which was the island's capital at that time.

The two countries share a commitment to democracy and democratic values, as well as the same parliamentary system. Good relations are maintained between the two countries in the areas of trade, technology, energy, culture and tourism.

The stamp was issued in 2014 as a special joint issue Israel-Malta to mark 50 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries. Design: Ronen Goldberg.