wolfNile Crocodile

  • Issue: February 2005
  • Designer: T. Kurz
  • Stamp Size: 40 mm x 30.8 mm
  • Plate no.: 590, 591 (1 phosphor bar) 592, 593 (2 phosphor bars)
  • Sheet of 15 stamps Tabs: 5
  • Printers: E. Lewin-Epstein Ltd.
  • Method of printing: offset

Man's world in ancient times reflected the animal world. This is shown in the Bible where animals area source of poetic inspiration, a basis for the prophet's tales and an important part of the dietary laws referring to which animals can be eaten and which are forbidden. Many zoologists in Israel have researched the correlation between animals mentioned in the Bible and animals that are known today, whilst trying to match names to the wild animals that are found in Israel. This stamp series depicts some of the animals that are mentioned in the Bible and includes an endangered wolf species and other species that were made extinct from Israel during the 20th century (ostrich, Nile crocodile, brown bear). Since the end of the 1960's Israel's Nature and Parks Authority breed small reproductive groups of wildlife that are extinct in Israel. In the Yotvata Hai-Bar (Wildlife Preserve) Nature Reserve there are reproductive groups of desert animals and in the Carmel Hai-Bar (Wildlife Preserve) Nature Reserve there are reproductive groups of Mediterranean animals. Until now animals that have been released from the reserves into their natural environment are the Wild Ass and the White Oryx released into the Negev, the Roe deer released into the South Carmel region, and the Fallow Deer in the Western Galilee.

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The Ostrich

The ostrich is the largest bird that exists today. Its height is 2.5 meters and its weight can reach 150 kilograms. Its wings are too small to carry its body weight. The ostrich's legs are particularly strong and its movements are based on walking and running. The male ostrich has black feathers whereas the female is covered in grey-brown feathers. In the past the ostrich lived in the East Mediterranean region between the Syrian Desert and the Arabian Desert including the Negev and Sinai. In ancient times (6000 years ago) there were also ostriches in the coastal region. (An ancient nest from 5000 years ago was found on the coast near Herzliya). The last evidence indicating presence of ostriches in Jordan and the Negev was found in the beginning of the 20th century. The ostrich became extinct from the region after the 1940's due to hunting and collection of ostrich eggs. Today, Hai Bar Yotavta Nature Reserve raises reproduction groups of ostriches, which originated in Ethiopia, in order to return them to nature within the next few years. The ostrich is mentioned several times in the Bible "...like ostriches of the desert" (Lamentations 4,3).

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The Brown Bear

The bear is the largest of the terrestrial carnivores but it has a mostly vegetarian diet, including fruit, seeds and honey, as well as insects, The Brown Bear's weight is approximately ?00 kilograms and it can be nearly 2 meters long. Its fur is yellowish-brown with white at the tip. The necks of the cubs are white which disappears during the first year. The uprooting of the forests and increased hunting (with the introduction of guns) caused the bears to move to unpopulated areas and the last bears were hunted down on the slopes of the Hermon Mountain at the beginning of the 20" century so that this species was made extinct from the region. During Biblical times the bears were spread over the forests in the Mediterranean area and Jordan Valley. The prophet, Elijah described were the bears lived "two she-bears came out of the woods..." (2 Kings 2,24). The bear is also mentioned 13 times as a large impressive animal symbolizing strength and as a vision of peace as in Isaiah's words "The wolf shall dwell with the lamb... The cow and the bear shall graze..." (Isaiah 11,6-7).

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The Wolf

The wolf is the largest mammal of the canine family in Israel. Its body is grey/brown or yellowish with white markings around the mouth and its tail is long, reaching just over the heel. The wolf is one of the largest carnivores in Israel and is found in most of the areas where human population is sparse - from Ramat Hagolan in the north through Ramer Menashe and the Gilboa to the Judean Desert, Negev and Arava in the south. It is estimated that there are a few hundreds of wolves in Israel. They usually live in packs where the dominant pair mate and take care of their off-springs together with other members of the pack. The wolf packs live in a territory spread over tens of kilometers where they hunt and raise their off-spring. The wolf is mentioned seven times in the Bible and mostly as a fable describing their carnivorous activities "...the wolf of the desert ravages them" (Jeremiah 5,6).

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The Nile Crocodile

The Nile crocodile is one of the largest reptiles in existence today. Its can be up to 5 meters long and its weight can reach 2 tons. The color of the back is black/grey. The crocodile is carnivorous and feeds on insects (food for small crocodiles), fish, reptiles, and mammals that it drags from the river bank. The crocodile lives in sweet water rivers, ponds and swamps. Until the early 20th century crocodiles lived in the Kabara swamps and the Taninim stream. They were the remnants of pre-historic creatures that lived in the region during periods of time in which the climate was warmer. It is likely that over-hunting was the cause of the extinction of crocodiles from Israel and Egypt in modern times. Only a few crocodiles were left by the end of the 19th century and hunted down. The crocodile is mentioned a few times in the Bible "...each cast down his rod, and they turned into serpents" (Exodus 7,12).

Amit Dolev
Director, Israel Mammals Research Center
The Society for the Protection of-Nature in-Israel

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Animals in the Bible