We who live in the 21st century enjoy abundant means of communication and ways to transfer information. Thus, it is difficult for us to comprehend just how dependent people used to be on a reliable and swift postal service. In order to provide the best possible service, postal institutions around the world used all the available means of transport and quickly embraced any new technology that enabled them to increase their volume of mail and shorten delivery times.
Until the mid-19th century, Eretz Israel was a remote province in the outlying regions of the Ottoman Empire and residents had no organized mail service whatsoever. The turning point came in 1852, when the first Postal Services were founded and operated by Austria and France.
The most efficient and organized service was provided by the Austrian Post, which was the first to use a special carriage to transport letters and packages within Eretz Israel. Just six hours after the Austrian postal ship docked at Jaffa Port, patrons could receive their mail at the Austrian Post branch located by the Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem.
When the railroad line between Jaffa and Jerusalem was completed in 1892, the Ottoman Post (which had sole rights to use the line), improved its speed and reliability by transporting mail via train. Additional rail lines constructed in Eretz Israel were also used for transporting mail.
During the British Mandate the use of trains for transporting mail increased significantly. Some trains were equipped with a special postal car that collected mail at stops along the route. Postal workers sorted the mail as the train continued on its way, thus greatly decreasing the time it took for mail to reach its destination.
Following the establishment of the State of Israel, many new towns were founded throughout the country and their residents needed a postal service. The Israel Post began using special vehicles, commonly referred to as "The Red Van", which frequented each town daily and served as mobile post offices.
The Israel Post also utilized the services provided by sea and air transport companies to maintain postal ties between Israel and other countries around the world. The service provided by El Al, Israel's national airline, for transporting postal items overseas, is especially noteworthy.