This year, 2015, marks the 25th anniversary of full diplomatic relations between Israel and Greece. Both are modern democratic states, Mediterranean neighbors, with common values representing the proud independence of two ancient nations. The two countries have forged a multidimensional partnership with wide-ranging cooperation in all fields reflecting our peoples' shared history, close cultural ties and common interests. This historic commemorative stamp symbolizes the close friendship between Israel and Greece as they strive to build a better future, working together to promote the progress and prosperity of our nations and our region.
Irit Ben Abba
Israeli Ambassador to Greece
The Jews of Thessaloniki stood facing the sea, while other Jewish communities throughout the Diaspora and in Eretz Israel lived with their backs to it.
Yitzhak Ben Zvi, one of the forefathers of the Zionist movement and later President of Israel, visited Thessaloniki in 1914 and was amazed by the Jewish command of the port: "On the eve of the Sabbath, even before sunset, all transport halts at the port. At once, all the Jewish sailors fill the port with their rowboats, dinghies and ships, all sailing to shore... Sabbath!"
Due to the deep economic ties between Thessaloniki and the sea, which reflected the Jewish power on the docks and beyond, the "pearl of the Aegean" became known as "Jerusalem of the Balkans", in other words — like a city in Israel whose Jewish residents were linked to nature and to physical labor.
The "Jewish muscle" exhibited on the docks of Thessaloniki led the Zionist leadership to include the Thessalonikians in the conquest of the sea in Eretz Israel. Between 1933 and1935 hundreds of Jewish dockworkers from Thessaloniki immigrated to Eretz Israel and helped to realize the national vision of Hebrew labor with their own hands in the key sea ports of Haifa and Jaffa. The routine daily work on the docks was both tedious and dangerous. During the Arab strike that broke out in 1936, Arab workers failed in their attempts to lock the gates of the Haifa and Jaffa
ports. Haifa Port remained open thanks to the Thessalonikian dockworkers who continued to come to work despite the atmosphere of terror, and in Tel Aviv the Thessalonikians built the first Hebrew port, as an alternative to the striking Jaffa port. These heroic actions destroyed the Arab blockade of the transfer of goods, passengers and immigrants through the ports of Eretz Israel and garnered the Thessalonikians a place in the national pantheon for their key role in the realization of the Zionist vision during the period of the Jewish Yishuv as it moved toward statehood.
Dr. Shai Srougo
Researcher of Jewish Communities of the Mediterranean Region
Lecturer, Department of Jewish History, Haifa University