• Issue: October 1968
  • Designer: O. Adler
  • Plate no.: 240
  • Sheet of 15 stamps Tabs: 5
  • Method of printing: Photogravure

Abraham Mapu (1808-1867), one of the greatest Zionist novelists and historians of the 19th century, first became enthralled with the new Hebrew literary trend while teaching in the homes of wealthy Jewish families in Slobodka - a suburb of Kauna (Kovno) - Lithuania, where he was born.

Mapu studied Jewish law and tradition in heder (traditional Jewish school) until the age of 12. Then, in 1820, he began teaching himself and supported himself by teaching. He married in 1825 and 13 years later settled in Kovno for good.

He was greatly influenced by the famous Jewish thinker Senior Sachs who stirred in him an interest in the history of ancient Israel. In 1853 Mapu stunned literary circles with a Hebrew-language novel Ahavat Zion ("Love of Zion"), an epic story set against the background of Israel and its glory during the period of the First Temple. The book was read everywhere and translated into English, French, Russian, Yiddish, Ladino, and Arabic. Every great Zionist leader of this period readily admitted that the Zionist movement would have been incomplete without Mapu's novel.

The writer quickly became the most prominent of a circle of learned Lithuanian Jews. He won acclaim for his ability to endow modern Hebrew literature with the spirit and language of the Bible. In 1865 he published a historical novel, Ashmat Shomron ("The Guilt of Shomron"); this was followed by another book containing a scathing criticism of Jewish life in Lithuania.

Mapu also wrote a number of textbooks which served as important guides to several young generations. They included "The Education of Youth," "The Beliefs of a Pedagogue," and two well-known stories - "Dreamers of Dreams" and "The House of Hanan."

In 1867 he became ill, and traveled to Germany in search of a cure. He died there on Yom Kippur, 1867, but his memory lives on as a pillar of the early days of Zionism.

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Abraham Mapu