• Issue: August 1961
  • Designer: A. Kalderon
  • Plate no.: 53 - 55
  • Method of printing: Photolithography


Samson, son of Manoah, was the last of the Twelve Judges who led the tribes of Israel in the period after the death of Joshua and until the establishment of the Kingdom of Israel.

His birth was announced to his parents by the Angel of the Lord, who directed that the son to be born to them should be reared as a Nazirite: he was never to allow his hair to be shorn nor to drink wine or strong drink. According to the tiding, Samson was destined to "begin to deliver Israel out of the hands of the Philistines". (Judges 13:5).

Tradition delights in the thrilling victories of the lone giant Samson against the powerful Philistine hordes who were afflicting the tribes of Israel at that time. It is told that Samson slew his enemies by the thousand; he carried the gates of their cities for miles on his back:

He was as fantastic in his subtle stratagems as in his superhuman strength.

Samson was entrapped finally by the wiles of Delilah, the Philistine woman who succeeded in wheedling from him the secret of his strength. "If I be shaven, then my strength will go from me, and I shall become weak and be like any other man" (Judges 16:17).

Once his hair was shorn, Samson was powerless against the Philistines who blinded and imprisoned him. The Philistines glorying in their victory, brought Samson to the temple of the god Dagon. They tied him to the pillars of the temple, "to make sport of him." After a passionate plea to God, Samson's strength returned once more. He bowed himself with all his might, bringing the roof of the temple down on the revelling Philistines. And the "dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life" (Judges 16:30).

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Judas Maccabeus (Yehuda Maccabi)

Yehuda Maccabi was the third son of the priest Mattathias, the Hasmonean, who with his five stalwart sons raised the banner of revolt against the Syrian despot, Antiochus IV. A fanatic Hellenist, Antiochus had forbidden - on pain of death - the observance of .Jewish practices in the province of Judea. The Temple in Jerusalem had been converted into a sanctuary to Zeus and pagan altars erected throughout the country. These harsh measures sparked off a rebellion which was kindled by the aged priest Mattathias of the village of Modi'in near Jerusalem.

Refusing to accept the emperor's decrees, Mattathias and his sons fled to the mountains. From their hiding place in the hills they carried out a guerrilla war against the Syrian soldiers. Many villagers joined the rebels, all determined to resist to the end the excesses of the pagans.

After his death, the mantle of Mattathias fell upon his son Yehuda the "Hammer," who became leader of the insurgents. He was an undaunted fighter who did not hesitate to come out in open warfare against the enemy. Yehuda has been likened to a "lion in his deeds and as a young lion roaring for its prey."

Under his leadership the struggle for religious freedom broadened into a battle for political independence. Yehuda eventually succeeded in leading his band of rebels into Jerusalem. He destroyed the pagan altars, purified the Temple and rededicated it to the God of Israel. The Festival of Hanukkah marks the anniversary of this restoration.

Yehuda continued to struggle for liberation from the Seleucid despot, but in 161 B.C.E. the enemy, heavily reinforced, launched an attack on the rebel forces. At Elasa, Yehuda Maccabi was killed after calling to his followers "to die like heroes."

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Shimon Bar Kochba

Shimon Bar Kochba, "son of the star," was the hero of the War of Liberation which the people of Israel fought against the rule of Hadrian, emperor of Rome. This revolt, which took place in the year 132 C.E., 60 years after the destruction of the Second Temple, was one of the most serious and protracted in the history of the Roman Empire.

Bar Kochba's origins are shrouded in mystery. He appeared suddenly as a redeemer to give meaning to his people's yearnings for freedom from the oppressive yoke of Rome. He gathered together an army; he prepared arms and equipment; he built strongholds and underground lines of communication. Bar Kochba's success against the Romans led to his proclamation as "Prince of Israel." This title has been found inscribed on coins struck during that period and also on the many Hebrew and Aramaic letters written by Bar Kochba to his military commanders and to civilian leaders.

The revolt against the Roman legions lasted more than two years. Coins of the period bear the inscription : "Year I" or "Year II" of the "Liberation" or "Redemption of Israel".

Recent excavations of caves in the Judean desert, where Bar Kochba is believed to have trained his army, have unearthed numerous papyrus documents and letters as well as many other artefacts. These all offer concrete testimony to the brilliance of Bar Kochba's leadership and of the heroism of his soldiers.

The venerable Rabbi Akiva was the spiritual leader of the revolt. He fervently believed in the messianic qualities of the young commander, hailing him as the promised "Star out of Jacob" of Balaam's prophecy. Bar Kochba and his dwindling handful of followers could not hope to withstand the superior might of the Roman legions. Greatly increased Roman forces, led by Julius Severus, the famous Roman general of the time, eventually suppressed the rebellion, Bar Kochba met his death at Betar, in the Jerusalem hills, the last stronghold to fall.

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Festivals 1961