Waves EtiopiaKurdistanSalonika Sharon

  • Issue: February 1997
  • Designer: A. Vanooijen
  • Stamp size: 40 x 25.7 mm
  • Plate no.: 306 - 308
  • Sheet of 15 stamps Tabs: 5
  • Printers: E. Lewin-Epstein Ltd.
  • Method of printing: Offset

Depicted on the stamps are the traditional costumes of Jewish communities in the late 19th century and early 20th century. In general, the Jews were well integrated into their surroundings and adopted their neighbours' mode of dress, apart from a small number of places where they maintained their own distinctive garb.

The jews of Ethiopia

Over many years, knowledge of the existence of Jews in Ethiopia was based entirely on rumours. Only in the mid-l9th century did contacts begin between Jewish emissaries from Europe and Ethiopian Jewry. The Ethiopian Diaspora is on the verge of extinction: the Jews of this Diaspora have been arriving in Israel since the end of the 1970s, mostly in the framework of an impressive series of operations - Operation Oueen of Sheba, Operation Moses and the most recent Operation Solomon mounted in 1991. Ethiopian Jewry's traditional garb, in which they arrived in Israel, is highly impressive and has ancient roots. It is identical to that worn in the high plateau regions of Tigari and Gondar, which were the seats of authority of the ancient Ethiopian kingdoms. The outfit was sewn from white cotton fabric woven on a portable loom, weaving being one of the mainstays of Jewish existence in Ethiopia. An important item, common to both men's and women's attire, was the outer wrapping known as the "shamma", consisting of a rectangular cloth covering the shoulders. The women's traditional 9arb included a Iong and wide dress, occasionally with the addition of long sleeves. The front of the dress had a multi-colored strip of embroidery running down the center from the neck opening, ending in a beautiful and complicated pattern of a cross. An identical pattern was embroidered on the back of the dress. In recent times, this pattern has been replaced by the Star of David, used to decorate other objects as well, such as pottery and gourds. An additional item of clothing was the belt, comprising a band of fabric with a colorful edging.

Traditional garb played an important part in the culture of Ethiopian Jewry. Even today, in Israel -especially in ceremonies - the men can be observed wearing the "shamma" over their modern garb, while the women don their embroidered dresses.

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The jews of Kurdistan

The Jews of Kurdistan lived in the lofty Zagrot mountains, in an area divided today among five countries: Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Syria and Russia. By their account, they are descended from the Ten Tribes exiled from the Land of Israel and are known as "Those Lost from the Land of Assyria". They have, in fact, preserved many ancient customs, and Aramaic is still commonly spoken among them.

One of the most characteristic occupations of Kurdish Jews was weaving. They were master weavers, creating spectacular woollen fabrics in multiple colors and patterns. The fabric for the men's clothing was made from goats' hair, and for women's clothing from uncultivated silk. The dying of threads and fabrics was also a craft in which Kurdish Jews specialized. The tasks of weaving and sewing were relegated to the women. They would wash and comb the shorn wool and spin from it dozens of meters of thin thread, from which the fabric for a single suit of clothes was woven. After weaving the fabric, the women would sew and embroider the clothing. The men typically dressed in an outfit consisting of two main parts: long and wide pants and a long-sleeved open-front jacket with a white cotton shirt and short vest beneath it. Around the waist they wrapped a long and wide strip of cloth woven from silk or cotton, which also served to hold the outfit together. On their heads they wore a skullcap which they wrapped in a scarf. In cold areas they would also wear a wide woollen coat.

To this day, some fifty years after the termination of this Diaspora, the older people of the community can still be seen walking about in original outfits. Dance troupes of Kurdish extract perform in traditional costumes, thus helping to preserve the community's heritage.

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The jews of Salonika

The Jewish community of Salonika was established mainly by the Spanish and Portuguese Jews who arrived there after their expulsion from Spain and Portugal in 1492 and 1496.

The community of Salonika became a prominent Jewish center in the Ottoman Empire. Its culture was mainly shaped by its Sephardi heritage.

The Jews of Salonika engaged in trade, banking, the tobacco industry and the textile industry, specializing in weaving woollen textiles used by the Ottoman army.

They were also involved in a variety of trades related to the port of Salonika, ranging from porterage to the ownership and leasing of seacraft. By the end of the 19th century, the community had greatly expanded to number some 75,000 people conferring on the city a Jewish character and hence named the Balkan's Jerusalem. During WW II, the community was destroyed. The Jews were transported by the Nazis to the concentration camps where most of them perished.

The traditional costume of the Jewish women of Salonika was highly distinctive, making them easily identifiable among the city's population.

This dress integrated elements from the Greek folk costume, the Ottoman costume and possibly even remnants of the costume of the Jewish women brought to the Ottoman empire from Spain. The whole outfit is called Kofya, after the special headgear which was the Jewish woman's most characteristic feature. This headgear consisted of several caps and scarves covering the woman's hair and gathering it into a snood decorated with an embroidered panel bearing an amuletic significance.

The costume included two patterned silk coat dresses, worn one on top of the other, both with a deep décolletage. The breast was covered by a fine lace dicky. A decorative silk apron completed the costume. At an earlier stage the outfit also included also wide baggy "sharwal" trousers and a chemise. This costume was worn by some members of the Jewish community until the 1920's and 1930's.

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Ethnic costumes