The Postal History of The Ottoman Post in The Holy Land

Rates, Routes & Postmarks

By Zvi Aloni & Joseph Hackmey

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Zvi Aloni Joseph Hackmey



ISBN: 978-1-913015-15-2

Many years ago when I first met Zvi Aloni at one of the world’s most prestigious philatelic events in London where I was judging postal history, I could not help but admire his appetite for learning about the many perplexities of the Ottoman post in the Holy Land. He was both inquisitive and relentless in his approach thus possessing all the necessary qualities of an avid researcher. I was showered with questions about the topic to such detail that I knew that one day he would produce a work that would serve as a guide for anyone from novice to the foremost of researchers and collectors of the area. Hence this volume!
Working on material specific to postal practices of the Ottoman Empire is not an easy task. There is a limited amount of literature and deciphering the Arabic alphabet that was used by the Turks until 1929 can be challenging. Material is scattered amongst some prominent collections and postal museums. However, the author has the advantage of being the curator of the late Zvi Alexander’s vast collection of the Ottoman post including exclusive field post applications in which he became totally immersed. Over the last eight years he has been adding his personal findings as well as what he gathered from the limited available literature for the initial draft of this book. We exchanged numerous e-mails, sometimes on one single item before we reached a mutual conclusion about its content. As a matter of fact, his help in finding some suitable material for my own book on postal history of the Ottoman Empire was extremely useful. Once he had compiled the information, he embarked upon the difficult task of locating adequate material to support his findings. That is when the extensive collections of respectable philatelists such as the aforementioned Zvi Alexander, Joseph Hackmey and Itamar Karpovsky arrived on the scene.
Despite the title “The Postal History of the Ottoman Post in the Holy Land”, what makes this book important is that it is a reference for the Ottoman post as a whole. It has brief but adequate information about the development of the imperial post and telegraph systems of the Empire particularly during the XIX. Century. Special emphasis is given to the controversial foreign post offices and their contribution to civil communication.
The book examines the general rates, both domestic and overseas, through detailed, easy to follow tables including some exceptions that were only applicable to the Holy Land. Each rate from ordinary letter to declared value, from postal bond to money order is accompanied by a gem from one of the great collections as a proof of usage. The same applies to the impeccable display of all the postmarks that were adopted. The reader will find some hitherto unknown, unique postal cancellations. Every single post office that was operable and used these postmarks for some period between 1840 to 1918 is examined through the contribution of some desirable pieces. Censorship applications during the Great War are examined and displayed. An adequate amount of auxiliary material e.g. receipts for registered letters, registration labels and handstamps are also included in the work.
A brief introduction to the towns where the post offices were operating accompanied by relevant contemporary photographs or picture postcards adds yet another dimension to the already existing information. Postal routes are examined carefully by highlighting inland and littoral rates and their introduction to the area again with supporting material and maps. It is impossible not to admire the efficiency of the then postal services in comparison to those of modern times. Sailing through this wealth of knowledge the reader arrives at detailed information about the travelling post offices. The Hedjaz Railway which extended from Damascus to Medina was one of the greatest engineering achievements of its time. For philatelists it has a special meaning because of the post offices and telegram services that were made available along the route. Material emerging from some of these locations are rare but again, excellent examples is included in the relevant section.
The Holy Land had one of the highest literacy rates of the Ottoman Empire hence a high rate of communication. Because of this it has been avidly researched by postal historians. Zvi Aloni takes us on an epic journey in a time capsule where history and social life are interwoven and reflected in Ottoman postal activities covering almost eighty years from 1840 onwards. Its detailed contents take this work to another level: it is not only a reference book focussed on this postal history but also in its own way, is an encyclopedic treasure of the Holy Land.

Joseph Hackmey who made his business career in insurance and real estate, having started his career as a physicist and later as an actuary, was first exposed to postage stamps by watching his father devoting time to a collection of King George the Sixth at a very early age. By the age of twelve he became very familiar with the Stanley Gibbons red book of 1949. 

The first collection formed was of Israeli issues, taking advantage of the large amount of mail received by the family’s insurance company. Next, collections of British Palestine, Holy Land,Transjordan, and the postal history of the Ottoman Empire were formed. Later on, collections of France, Persia, Romania, Baden, Switzerland, Chile, USA, Mexico, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Papal States, and Turkey, were formed plus some BritishCommonwealth areas such as New Zealand, Ceylon, Barbados, Grenada, Canada, Cape of Good Hope, and the six Australian States. Many of the exhibits received Large Gold medals or Grand Prix prizes at FIP internationals. 
Joseph is a Fellow of the Royal Philatelic Society London which awarded him a Lee medal, a member of the French Academie de Philatelie, and a member of the collectors club New York. At all of these organizations he presented displays and papers. In 1999 Hackmey was invited to sign the Roll of Distinguished Philatelists at Salisbury. 

Zvi Aloni, Born 1948, lives in Shoham, Israel. Served as a pilot in the IAF (Israel Air Force). Was the philatelic curator for the last 15 years of the "Alexander collection" in "The Alexander Museum of Postal History and Philately" in the Eretz Israel Museum – Tel Aviv. Has been specializing in the postal history of the Holy Land since 1985 and published numerous articles on the subject. He is a co writer of the book "The Postal History of the Transition Period in Israel, 1948 – The Emergency, Local, and Private Postal Services" and the author of the books "The Postal History of the Transition Period in Israel, 1948 – The Official Postal Services, British Mandate, Minhelet Ha'am & Israel".  In 2008 he wrote the books "The Alexander Collection - Milestones in the Postal History of the Holy Land" and "Chapters in the Aerophilately of Eretz Israel - The Alfred Goldschmidt Collection". Currently he is working together with Dr. Stephen Rotman & Yacov Tsachor on the new edition of "The Doar Ivri - First Issue of Israel". He is member of the team of "Y. Tsachor Expert Committee" expertizing  Holy Land material since 2010. 

Explanation of the Illustrated Pages
Historical Background
Foreign Post Offices in the Ottoman Empire and the Ottoman Contentions
General Information
     Ottoman Territorial Jurisdictions in the Holy Land
     The Ottoman Currency
     Weights and Measures
     The Numerals
     Ottoman Telegraph
Ottoman Postal Rates 1840 - 1918
     Simplified Domestic Letter Rates
     Simplified Foreign Letter Rates
     Registered Mail and AR Services
     Official Mail
     Postage Due
     Talisman Marks
The Post & Telegraph Offices
     Afula Railway Station
Aioun Cara
Beit Djala
Beit Sahur
Beni Saab
Bir Birin
Bir El Zeit
Bir El Sebee (Beersheba)
Bon Samaritain
Cefa Omer
Djesr El - Majami
     Haifa German Quarter
     Haifa Railway Station
     Haifa Harbor
Hebron (Halil Ul rahman)
Irak El Mansiye
     Jaffa Port
     Jaffa Souk El Neccar
     Manchie (Jaffa)
     Jaffa (Tel Abib)
     Jourdain (Eriha) - Sheria Neheri
     Jerusalem Main Post Office
     Jerusalem Branch Post Offices
          Quarter Israelite - the Story of Eliyahu Honig
          Quart. Israelite
          Meo Charem
          Camp Imperial
          Jerusalem (Gare)
          Souk El Attarine
          Souk El Tudjadjer
          Harret u Nassara
     Jerusalem Postal Agencies
          Suc. Poste Nahlat Chiwa
          Suc. Poste Mahna Juda
          Suc. Poste Notre Dame de France
          Suc. Poste Grand New Hotel
Khan Younesse
Petah Tiqva
Rosh Pinah
Tel El Chamame
Vadi El Harar
The Travelling Post Offices (TPO's)
     The Jaffa - Jerusalem Railway
     The Hedjaz Railway Haiffa - Damas
     Massoudieh - Beersheba Railway
     The Distance Rate System and Distance Charts
     The Tatar Post Journals
     Population in Ottoman Holy Land
     Ottoman Chronology
     Preferential Rates - Jerusalem
     Declared Value Rates
     Turkish Postal Terms
     Valuation Guide
     Central Palestine and the Negev
     Northern Palestine and parts of Lebanon and Syria
     Ottoman Postal Map showing the Postal Routes in Palestine, Lebanon, and Syria in the 1850's
     German map showing the Extent of the Railways in Summer 1916
     The Hedjaz Railway Haifa-Samach Section, 1906

Sample pages (click one to enlarge)