Shota Rustavel

  • Issue: September 2001
  • Artist: Y. Granot
  • Stamp Size: 40 mm x 30.8 mm
  • Plate no.: 451 - no phosphor bar
  • Sheet of 15 stamps Tabs: 5
  • Printers: E. Lewin-Epstein ltd.
  • Method of printing: Offset

The issuance of a joint Georgia–Israel stamp in 2001 expresses Israel's gesture to the Georgian heritage and the gesture made by Georgia to the Jewish heritage in Georgia, which has a history of above 2600 years.

The Georgian stamp depicts the "small" Synagogue in the town of Kutaisi.

The Israeli stamp is dedicated to the Georgian national poet, Shota Rustaveli, who is known throughout the world for his poem " The Man in the Panther's Skin". The Israeli poet Abraham Shlonsky who was literary editor of the Hebrew version of the poem, said: " Like Yehuda Halevi is the Israeli nation, Homer is Greece, Dante is Italy, Shakespeare is England and Pushkin is Russia - Shota Rustaveli is Georgia."

To the Georgian people "The Man in the Panther's Skin", claims Shlonsky, is not only a perfect literary work but "the nation's book of all books of national pride and par excellence. The eminence of this work has risen above the national level and it has become one of the great treasures of world poetry."

In the introduction to the Hebrew version of the poem, it is written: "A story of love, heroism and extreme devotion... the poem excels in artistic creativity, psychological analysis and it is full of wise sayings that even now, 800 years later, are revered by the Georgian people. Rustaveli preaches for freedom of prisoners of conscience, equality between man and woman, the teaching of grace and kindness and abhors deceit and treachery. These concepts made "The Man in the Panther's Skin" a book for educating the people and the fine craftsmanship invested in this work has created an acme of poetic perfection."

The Hebrew version, outstandingly translated by Dov (Boris) Gaponov, was published in 1969. Rustaveli lived in Georgia during the 12th and 13th centuries when "Georgia was a feudal state and commerce, agriculture, art, literature and philosophy flourished."

Many details about the life and activities of Shota Rustaveli are unknown but apparently he was an advisor and Finance Minister of Queen Tamar (1184-1213) whom he admired greatly. His name was strongly connected with the Monastery of the Cross in Jerusalem, which was renovated with funds that he brought to Jerusalem. The fathers of the Monastery (which is today Greek Orthodox) even made a special day in his memorial for his benevolence. There is a picture in the Monastery illustrating Rustaveli as a noble elderly man with a long white beard and in the dress of a secular minister. The name "Shota Rustaveli" is inscribed on the portrait in classic Georgian. This portrait appears on the Israeli stamp in the joint issue. According to one hypothesis, Rustaveli lived in the Monastery of the Cross in his latter years and died and was buried in Jerusalem.

Dov (Boris) Gaponov (1934-1972) from the town of Kutaisi translated Rustaveli's poem into Hebrew. Gaponov learnt Hebrew in his grandfather's house and achieved a level of outstanding fluency. He did not have any connection with Israel and was unknown in Israel until 1966 when he sent his commendable Hebrew translation of "The Man in the Panther's Skin" to Avraham Shlonsky. Dov Gaponov immigrated to Israel in 1971 and died in 1972 from a severe illness.

Yinon Beilin
Director Israel Philatelic Service

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Joint issue Israel - Georgia: Shota Rustavel