• Issue: December 2004
  • Designer: Gideon Sagi
  • Stamp Size: 40 mm x 30.8 mm
  • Plate no.: 585, 586 (2 phosphor bars) 587 (No phosphor bar)
  • Sheet of 15 stamps Tabs: 5
  • Printers: E. Lewin-Epstein Ltd.
  • Method of printing: offset

Colorful decorated mailboxes could be found in Jerusalem and Jaffa at the beginning of the 20th century. These were the first mailboxes of Eretz Israel that were installed by the consular post offices, which were in operation since the second half of the 19th century.

Foreign consular representation in Eretz Israel was part of the Capitulations agreements - rights granted to foreign citizens, including Jews, who lived under the Ottoman rule. Those rights enabled the use of foreign postal services.

Until then, the Ottoman postal services operated by means of couriers between Jerusalem and Beirut. It was only when the first steam ships docked in the ports of Eretz Israel, and shipping companies introduced the first overseas postal services, that France, Austria, Germany, Russia and Italy offered independent postal services in Eretz Israel.

The official visit to Eretz Israel of the German Kaiser, William 11 and his wife Augusta Victoria, in the autumn of 1898, marked the beginning of the German postal services in the country.

The German postal activities involved precise organization paying attention to improved service to the customer. In order to fulfill this objective the Germans installed the first mailboxes in Eretz Israel. The mailboxes were blue and decorated with a gold colored letter slot. They were placed outside post offices, businesses and at collection points along the carriage route between Jaffa and Jerusalem.

In 1902 the Austrian postal services followed the Germans and placed yellow mailboxes around the country and postmen began to deliver mail. The Turkish post also had mailboxes, which were simpler in a reddish brown color.

With the outbreak of the First World War the consular offices under the Ottoman administration were closed and on 30 September 1914 foreign postal services in Eretz Israel ceased.

In December 1914 Eretz Israel was taken over by the British thus ending four hundred years of Turkish rule in the country. During the British Mandate impressive post offices were built in Jerusalem, Yaffo and in other cities. The mail was transported by train and other vehicles within Eretz Israel and by land, sea and air to other countries.

Mailboxes during the British Mandate were exact copies of the mailboxes used in Britain - bright red in color and decorated with the monarchy's emblem.

Since the establishment of the state, the design of the mailboxes has been changed but they are always red.

When the Israel Postal Authority was established, yellow mailboxes were placed next to the red ones in order to facilitate the sorting process. The yellow mailboxes were for local mail only and therefore eliminated part of the sorting. Sorting methods however have now been greatly improved so that since the second half of 2004 the yellow mailboxes are no longer in use.

A display of historic and modem mailboxes are part of the permanent exhibit at the Israel Postal and Philatelic Museum, which is situated in the Eretz Israel Museum, Tel Aviv.

Sara Tbrel
Curator and Manager Postal and Philatelic Museum

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Philately Day - Mailboxes in Israel