In the mid-19th century some well known Jews began to voice their views encouraging the revival of the Jewish people in their historical homeland, Zion. Rabbi Yehuda Bibas, Moshe Hess, Rabbi Yehuda Alkalai and Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Kalischer were prominent among this group. The call of those who heralded Zionism was not successful in spurring the Jewish community into action at that time, however, the ideas that they raised led to the founding of the "Hibbat Zion" movement some twenty years later. Moshe Lilienblum, Yehuda Leib Pinsker and Rabbi Samuel Mohilewer were among the movement's most active members.
Rabbi Samuel Mohilewer was born in 1824 in the town of Glebokie near Vilna. He was ordained at age 19 and over the years served as the rabbi for a number of Eastern European communities.
Rabbi Mohilewer was attracted to the Zionist idea even before the pogroms against the Jews in Russia in 1881, but immediately thereafter he began making great efforts to promote programs to settle Eretz Israel. He called on the rabbis of Russia to establish societies to support the Zionist idea and was among those who persuaded the Baron de Rothschild to grant financial support to farming communities in Eretz Israel.
In 1882, Rabbi Mohilewer suggested that the Baron de Rothschild found a model farming community in Eretz Israel where Jews who knew how to work the land could settle. With the Baron's support, Rabbi Mohilewer located 11 such Jewish families in Russia and brought them to Eretz Israel. In 1883 land was purchased on which to settle the community of Ekron, later called Mazkeret Batya. The image on the stamp portrays Ekron farmers in the settlement's early days.
A gathering of the "Hovevei Zion" organization, in which Rabbi Mohilewer served as honorary president, took place in 1884 in the city of Kattowitz. At the conference decisions were made regarding the ways in which "Hovevei Zion" associations' operations could be institutionalized and how aid to settlements in Eretz Israel would be executed. A photograph of conference participants, with Rabbi Mohilewer in the center, appears on the tab.
Rabbi Mohilewer journeyed to Eretz Israel in 1890, where he personally examined the conditions and the actions that were needed in order to bolster the settlers. Upon returning to Eastern Europe he published a detailed letter in which he described his s impressions and presented a practical plan for settling Eretz Israel. "...those who come there will build houses and sew fields and plant vines and the desolate land will become vineyards and cities will be erected and they will put commerce behind them and eat from the fruits of their labor..."
In honor of Rabbi Mohilewer's 70th birthday, the "Hovevei Zion" society planted an orchard of citron trees near Hadera and called it "Gan Shmuel", the site of today's Kibbutz Gan Shmuel. The citron tree, the symbol of that planting enterprise, adorns the first day cover.
Rabbi Samuel Mohilewer passed away in 1898. In 1992 his remains were brought to Eretz Israel and re-buried in the Mazkeret Batya cemetery.
Rabbi Zvi Hirsh Kalischer was born in the Polish city of Lissa in 1795. He was a Torah prodigy and was appointed as the rabbi for the city of Thorn at a young age. He refused to receive any payment for his rabbinical services during the 50 years in which he filled the post and subsisted on the income from a small business run by his wife.
As early as the 1830's, Rabbi Kalischer was the first among the rabbis of Eastern Europe to begin working to promote the idea of the return to Zion. In 1860, Haim Zvi Luria founded "The Society for the Settlement of Israel" in order to promote the idea of forming Jewish agricultural settlements in Eretz Israel. Rabbi Kalischer joined the society and in 1862 he published his important book "Derishat Zion" within that framework. In this book he explained his view of redemption, namely that settling Eretz Israel was the first step toward the promised redemption. "Because redemption will only begin through charitable spiritual awakening and by the will of the powers that be to gather a small portion of the dispersed Jews to the Holyland..." A photograph of the cover page in the third edition of the book, printed in Warsaw in 1899, appears on the tab.
Rabbi Kalischer travelled throughout Europe, working to convince Jewish leaders to realize his plan for settling Eretz Israel. One of the plan's central points, which he detailed in his book "Derishat Zion", dealt with the establishment of an agricultural school, "a place to study the wisdom of the Land, to educate the young men of Israel and teach them the work of the fields and vineyards alongside their other studies, with Torah and reverence. And this place of study shall be in Eretz Israel..."
When the "Mikveh Israel" agricultural school was founded in 1870, the Alliance Israelite Universelle turned to Rabbi Kalischer, asking him to join the school's teaching staff. The 75-year old rabbi was pleased to receive the offer and agreed to accept it, but he was in poor health and was not able to make the journey to Eretz Israel. Despite never seeing it with his own eyes, Rabbi Kalischer's vision regarding Jewish farmers did come true. A photograph of plowing at "Mikveh Israel" from 1930 appears on the stamp. Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Kalischer passed away in 1874. Kibbutz Tirat Zvi, located in the Beit Sheen valley, is named for him.