• Issue: October 1974
  • Designer: G. Rothschild / Z. Lippmann
  • Stamp size: 30 x 25.7 mm
  • Plate no.: 425 - 427
  • Sheet of 50 stamps Tabs: 5
  • Printers: Government Printers
  • Method of printing: Photogravure

The Arava, extending from the southernmost tip of the Dead Sea to Elat, is part of the Great Rift Valley. Cutting through walls of rock, this bleak, semi-desert canyon, 165 kilometres long and up to 20 kilometres in width, separates Jordanian territory on the east from that of Israel on then west. Red Nubian sandstone forms the bulk of the steep cliffs on the Jordanian side, giving the land its ancient name of Edom - in Hebrew, red - while on the west, the gentler slopes are far more varied in colour, shape and structure.

Three natural divisions - Northern, Central and Southern -make up the Arava valley. Each section has a number of springs, which are extremely important in this area with an average annual rainfall of only 40 millimetres and a hot, dry climate. Generally speaking, the springs nearer the Dead Sea and its winter overflow tend to be more saline, while those further south are progressively sweeter.

Israel has made good use of its limited water resources in the Arava, utilizing them for permanent settlements and temporary camps. Superhuman efforts have been made by national bodies to encourage such settlements, particularly those engaged in agriculture, in sharp contrast to Jordan, which does not have one single village in its part of the Arava. Even in the northern section, with perhaps the most difficult climatic conditions, the colony of Neot Hakikar was established in 1961. Its members specialize in cattle raising, and have also succeeded in growing date palms irrigated by highly brackish spring water.

Em Hatzeva, a copious spring and luxuriant oasis in the Central Arava, is believed to be located on a huge underground lake, as yet untapped. It has its own special history of Nabatean, Roman and Byzantine occupation, and today a village called Hatzeva, already ten years old, has arisen nearby. Also in the Central Arava is Beer Tzofar, close to the spring of Be'er Tzofar, where Nahal - Israel's Pioneer Fighting Youth - have founded a group.

King Solomon's copper mines, now reactivated at Timna, are an exciting part of the Southern Arava, where several thriving units are bringing fertility back to the long-neglected soil. Most recent is Kibbutz Ketura, less than a year old, while water-rich Yotvata, founded in 1951, Be'er Ora, set up in 1950 Elot in 1962, and Grofit, started in 1971, have all added their unstinted labour and social ideals to the prosperity of the Arava. Past and present mingle in this strange, torrid strip of land with a total area of son,. BOO thousand dunams of which, under proper care, thousands of dunams miqht be restored to productivity. King David conquered it from the Edomites, then both he and Solomon his son used it as a trade route to their port of Elat.

After a long period of Edomite rule - it was taken back by them in the eighth century BCE - the Nabateans came into power and developed the Arava conserving its water resources, planting, and promoting commerce. The Romans, then the Byzantines, continued the same policy, but with the coming of the Arabs in 638 CE, the Arava, like most of Palestine, declined. Only with the renewal of Jewish faith and enterprise did the barren Arava again begin to "blossom as the rose." (Isaiah 35:1)

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The shoreline south of Elat pulsates with interest and activity. Here is the port area, where ships of many types and sizes, flying a variety of foreign flags, ride at anchor. Here are cargo boats, carrying raw material and finished goods through the Gulf of Ellat, through the Straits of Tiran, into the Red Sea, and beyond to the great markets of the world.

Here are the capacious tankers bringing crude oil - the lifeblood of every modern nation - to be processed in the Haifa refineries. Here, too, are sailing boats, their brighthued sails painting a gay picture against the blue sky and even bluer sea, while a little way from the commercial sector, glass-bottomed boats take visitors over a fairyland of corals and fantastically formed tropical fish. By snorkelling or skin-diving - for which the proper equipment is essential - a closer look may be obtained of these natural wonders.

Southward down the coast, opposite the Coral Beach, comfortable hotels are rising in the wake of the recently built motorway, once the Darb el Haj - the Moslem pilgrim road to Mecca. Incidentally, a short distance inland from here, along bleak Wadi Tueba, rock peckings of Greek and Nabatean writing and of a menorah and other Jewish symbols have been discovered, proof that the ancient caravan routes passed along the self-same path.

Just beyond the former green line boundary is the wide, sandy Taba Beach, formerly the site of an Egyptian outpost. Soon the ruined castle-citadel on "Coral ~d", also called "Jezirat Farun" - "Pharaoh's Island" can be seen; then the tranquil inlet known as the "Fjord." Close by the Fjord is the hot water pool Birket Assia - a rare phenomenon found only in a very few other places in the whole world.

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Safed is one of Israel's four Holy Cities, the others being Jerusalem, Tiberias and Hebron. Situated in Upper Galilee, on a hilltop nearly 900 metres above sea level, it looks out upon a breathtaking vista stretching from the Sea of Galilee to the snowy peak of Mount Hermon.

A favourite holiday resort, Safed's quaint winding lanes and mediaeval synagogues, combined with its comfortable hotels and friendly guest-houses, have made it a magnet for summer visitors. A major attraction is the Artists' Colony, where more than fifty sculptors and painters have their studios. The Glicenstein Art Museum adjoins the colony, and Safed also boasts a second museum commemorating 400 years of printing, for it was here, in 1578, that the first Hebrew book was printed in the Holy Land.

During Second Temple times Safed was one of the Beacon Hills which passed on the tidings of the birth of the New Moon, given out from Jerusalem. When the Jews of Galilee joined the revolt against the Romans in 66 CE, Josephus Flavius, historian and military commander, fortified Safed. The remains of his ancient citadel are incorporated in the hillcrest park in the town centre.

After the fall of Jerusalem, Safed became the home of many notable and learned families, and a considerable Jewish community grew up which lasted for centuries. The Crusaders transformed it into an important stronghold with a well established civilian population, partly Jewish. However, from 11 88 when it surrendered to Saladin until its final conquest by Mameluke sultan Beybars, Safed shuttled between Moslem and Christian rule.

Beybars made Safed the capital of Galilee, and eventually the town revived. Jews returned there in comparatively large numbers, and were joined by Spanish refugees fleeing the Inquisition, and by immigrants from Eastern European seeking their Jewish heritage.

The sixteenth and seventeenth centuries saw Safed blossoming as a centre of learning and mysticism. Famous names appear in the city's annals - the Cabbalist Rabbi Isaac Lurie, popularly known as Ha'Ari; Rabbi Joseph Caro, scholar and interpreter of the Law, who wrote the "Shulchan Aruch" or the "Set Table"; and others equally illustrious.

As Turkish administration grew weaker, Safed's eminence declined. The Turks were unable to maintain law and order, and the country became a prey to marauding bands. Trade and commerce diminished, and the catastrophic earthquake of 1837, resulting in the death of over 4,000 souls, was a setback from which the town never recovered.

At the outbreak of the 1948 hostilities some 12,000 Arabs and 1,500 Jews were living in Safed. Despite these overwhelming odds, the Arabs were forced to abandon their initial attack and run away, and since then the town has made steady progress. Today, thriving Safed has an ever-increasing population of 14,000 Jews, and is entering a period comparable only to the prosperous days of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, for plans are inhand to develop the town and make it the urban centre of the whole of Galilee.

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Landscapes Of Israel (VII)