• Issue: October 1961
  • Designer: F. Stern
  • Plate no.: 16 - 17 -19
  • Method of printing: Photogravure

Jethro's Tomb - Kefar Hitim

The Druze community, a mountain folk of Arab stock, are the adherents of an esoteric religion. They are named after the eleventh-century missionary Ismail el-Darazi who preached the new cult to the tribesmen of northern Syria and Lebanon. Members of this sect live in Israel in the villages of Galilee and on Mount Carmel. During the War of Liberation young men from the Druze villages volunteered for service in the Israel Army and two fighting platoons were formed under Israeli command. Many of them serve in the Frontier Force today. Representatives of the Druze communities sit in the Knesset (Israel Parliament).

The traveler Benjamin of Tudela was the first European to describe the Druze and their customs to the Western world, but the religious secrets of this community are closely guarded to this day.

The Druze or Muwahhadin - Believers in the Unity - as they call themselves, maintain that there is only one God who is indefinable and incomprehensible. He has made himself known to men by successive incarnations, the latest of whom were Moses, Jesus and El Hakim, the sixth Fatimite caliph. Chief amongst the prophets held in veneration by the Druze is Nebi Shu'aib which is the Arabic name for the Midianite priest Jethro, father-in-law of Moses. Every spring thousands of Druze tribesmen make the pilgrimage to the tomb of their saint. The tomb is located in Galilee at the foot of the curiously shaped mountain called "The Horns of Hitim". It is believed that the sheltered valley lying between the "horns" of Mount Hitim was originally the site of the ancient Canaanite city of Madon, mentioned in the Book of Joshua.

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The new city of Jerusalem is situated in a splendid setting high on the Judean hills, to the west of the Old City Walls. Jerusalem today is as much a part of the sacred memory of mankind as it is a thriving city of the present. It houses the Knesset, Israel's Parliament; Hekhal Shelomo - Religious Center and seat of the Chief Rabbinate; the Israel National Museum; The Bezalel School of Arts; the Hadassah and Hebrew University Medical Center, and many other important institutions. Jerusalem has tree-lined suburbs which radiate from the center of the town. To the city's natural beauty a distinctive charm has been added by the mellow-toned "Jerusalem" stone, of which its houses have been built since 1962.

The IL. 0.50 denomination in this airmail series shows in the foreground a windmill - a familiar landmark dominating the city's skyline. The windmill was erected in 1857 by Sir Moses Montefiore, the Anglo-Jewish philanthropist known as the "Father of New Jerusalem". The mill, situated on a rise opposite Mount Zion, overlooks the Yemin Moshe quarter which was the first suburb to be built outside the Old City's walls.

Prior to 1860 the entire population of Jerusalem - Jews, Christians and Moslems - was confined within the city's sixteenth-century walls. The Jews lived in the dark, dank dwellings of the crowded Jewish quarter. They subsisted mainly on charity extended to them by the richer Jewish communities of Europe; a few eked out a miserable existence from petty trading. In those days it was dangerous to live outside the walls of the Old City, whose massive gates were kept closed from sunset to sunrise.

Sir Moses Montefiore, a pious Jew, passionately devoted to the ideal of the return to Jerusalem, evolved the daring plan to settle Jews outside the Old City. He hoped to bring new life to the Jewish community and to break the thrall of complete dependence upon charity from abroad. To attract settlers to his project he erected a windmill next to it, citing the old saying: "Where there is no flour, there is no Torah." The mill, the first constructive enterprise set among the Jews of Jerusalem, was designed to provide employment as well as a flour supply in times of emergency.

The few courageous families who agreed to endanger their lives and make their new homes outside the city walls were indeed the pioneers of new Jerusalem. Yemin Moshe, named after its founder, was the nucleus from which modern Jerusalem gradually developed.

During the War of Liberation the strategic position of Yemin Moshe made it an important outpost of Jewish defense. The windmill, then long in disuse, served as an observation point. It remains standing today as one of the city's quaint and picturesque landmarks.

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This town's position on a slight promontory jutting out from the straight coastline of southern Israel made it a natural anchorage in ancient times. Old Yafo, it appears, was built on the hill overlooking the harbor. The magnificent view from the hilltops of the Mediterranean shores may well have inspired the Hebrews to call this town "Yafo" which in Hebrew means "beautiful".

In 1909 a group of Yafo's Jewish citizens laid the cornerstone of the first house of a new garden suburb - Tel Aviv - only a stone's throw from Old Yafo. Tel Aviv, however, rapidly outstripped Yafo as a cultural and commercial center. Severe anti-Jewish riots in 1929 led to the separation of the municipal cords binding mother and daughter towns.

In the hostilities preceding the War of Liberation Yafo became a stronghold of Arab fighters. For five months Arab snipers kept southern Tel Aviv under constant fire. On the eve of Israel's statehood, Yafo surrendered. Yafo and Tel Aviv have since reunited as one municipal entity.

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Air-Mail Stamps: Town Views (III)