Waves Sharon Ford model TWhite superLeyland Royal Tiger

  • Issue: November 1994
  • Designer: N. & M. Eshel
  • Stamp size: 40 x 25.7 mm
  • Plate no.: 239 - 241
  • Sheet of 15 stamps Tabs: 5
  • Printers: E. Lewin-Epstein Ltd.
  • Method of printing: Offset

Public transport played an essential and fundamental role in the building of the Jewish settlement in the land of Israel. The buses constituted a life - line to distant and isolated settlements, managing to get through to them on roads that could hardly be called roads, sometimes at the cost of the lives of those at the driving wheel.

Public transport began in Erez Israel at the end of the last century with the appearance of "diligences" (horse drawn carriages ) for fare - paying passengers. About ten passengers could squeeze onto their two benches. They travelled mainly on the Jaffa - Jerusalem route, a journey which took about a day and a half.

After the First World War many diligence drivers abandoned the horse for the motor engine, using some of the cars that had been left behind by the British Army. They were converted to buses by adding a simple wooden carriage to the chassis of these cars, making them similar to the diligence, - the only protection for the passengers being a cloth canopy. These cars, mainly 'Ford Model V, replaced the diligences, mainly on lines between Tel Aviv and Jaffa and between Jaffa and Jerusalem and gradually motorised vehicles also started serving relatively distant places in the Galilee and what was then termed 'the South".

The competition between drivers was tough and the maintenance costs were high. In order to make a living drivers formed themselves into organised groups, with the encouragement of the Mandatory Government, and these were in fact the embryos of the later transportation cooperatives.

In the Tel Aviv area two small cooperatives, "HaMa'avir" and "Galei Aviv" came into being in the twenties. At the end of the decade they amalgamated, calling themselves Galei HaMa'avir ". Similarly, the "Ihud" and "Regev" groups merged into "Ihud - Regev". This, in turn, amalgamated with the "Galei HaMa'avir" group and eventually, at the end of 1945 the "Dan " cooperative was set up. (The stamp on which can be seen the "Ford Model T" and a diligence also shows a reconstructed advertisement for "HaMa'avir").

Other groups operated the lines to Jerusalem, Haifa and the Southern and Central lines, and these amalgamated in 1933 into the "Egged " cooperative (the name was given the cooperative by the writer and poet, Chaim Nachman Bialik). In the South, in 1931, drivers formed the "Drom Yehuda " cooperative. In the North large cooperatives, such as "Mishmar HaMifratz ", "Chever" and "HaKesher" were set up and merged in 1947 into the "Shachar" cooperative. In Jerusalem groups of drivers formed the "HaMekasher" cooperative in 1931. There were also companies and groups of drivers which were owned by individuals and by kibbutzim, but in the thirties and forties they were swallowed up by the large cooperatives. There were also large bus companies serving the Arab population of the country.

In the thirties and forties, the bus companies had amalgamated into five large cooperatives: "Egged" operating throughout the country, "Drom Yehuda " - in the South, "Shacharin the North, "Hamekasher" in Jerusalem and "Dan" in Tel Aviv.

These mergers allowed the cooperatives to purchase more sophisticated vehicles, and the "Ford Model T" of the twenties made way for buses specially constructed for passenger transportation. Chassis were made in the USA and Europe such as the "White Super" and the bodies in local factories such "Ha'argaz" and "Merkavim" which over the years developed into large concerns.

The events of the thirties and forties, together with the establishment of many small settlements of small areas in the Galilee and the Negev, proved beyond question the importance of the cooperatives in maintaining transport communications throughout the country. The buses got through to outlying settlements such as Revivim in the south and Hanita in the north, and the various "Wall and Tower" settlements, and if sometimes they were riddled with bullet holes, they nevertheless brought with them mail, food supplies and greetings from the centre of the country. They also maintained contact with Jerusalem which was cut off from the rest of the country in the War of Independence and with Eilat after the establishment of the State. After the establishment of the State it became necessary for the cooperatives to amalgamate further and in 1951 today's "Egged" came into being as a merger of the old "Egged ", "Shachar" and "Drom Yehuda", "HaMekasher" in Jerusalem joined in 1967. Today there are two large cooperatives in Israel," Egged" and "Dan" and there are other small companies in Beer Sheva and Nazareth. The buses have also become more sophisticated: at the beginning of the fifties the "Leyland Royal Tiger" replaced previous models, and in the eighties, after thirty years of trusty reliable service, they were replaced by newer "Mercedes", "Neoplan" and "MAN" models. Today public transport reaches every settlement, throughout the country, however small. The peace process with our neighbouring countries presents Israel's public transport with new challenges. We hope that it will not be long before bus lines to the capitals of all our neighbouring states will be renewed.

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Public transport in Eretz Israel