Herzl and El Al: Envelope and Stamps
This envelope was created in honour of the Israeli delegation that travelled on a special flight to Budapest to attend the inauguration of the Budapest Holocaust memorial.
In the bottom left corner of the envelope, there is an image of the Weeping Willow Memorial; above this is a picture of an airplane advertising the special flight from Tel Aviv to Budapest to mark the occasion. The text describes Budapest as the “birthplace of Theodor Herzl the visionary of the State of Israel.” Herzl’s picture appears both here and on the stamps on the right-hand side of the envelope. In the bottom right corner is the name and address of the intended recipient and next to it a blue stamp with the symbol of the winged deer representing the Israeli airmail service. The postal stamp, written in Hebrew, English, and Arabic, shows the date as the 29th of Sivan 6750, June 22, 1990.
The Weeping Willow Memorial was designed by Imre Varga and completed in 1990. Located behind the Dohany Street Synagogue, it is a metal sculpture of a tree with the names of individuals and communities that perished in the Shoah inscribed on each of the leaves. The location of the memorial is significant, as this is where many Hungarian Jews were rounded up and taken to their deaths at the Nazi concentration camps.
Jews have lived in Hungary for approximately 600 years. Attitudes towards the Jewish community differed depending on the leaders at the time. Some were very welcoming, while at other times, Jews were subject to harsh taxation and blood libels and were expelled from certain areas of Hungary. By the mid-nineteenth century Jews had achieved full emancipation and the community prospered, which is reflected in the size, prominence, and central location of the synagogue. The Jewish community at the time consisted of Orthodox, traditionalists (Status Quo Ante) and Neolog communities.
Among the Jewish families living in Budapest was the Herzl family. Theodor, born in 1860, became a journalist, playwright and political activist. He became involved in Zionism and is known as the father of modern political Zionism. He founded the Zionist movement, organised the Zionist congresses, wrote books and article promoting the idea of a Jewish National State and petitioned to world leaders to enable the Jews to create this State.
Prior to World War I, the Jews comprised around 5% of the total Hungarian population and 23% of the population of Budapest. At the outbreak of World War II, the Jewish population numbered around 825,000 with fewer than 200,000 surviving. In 1944, towards the end of the war, the Nazis took over Hungary. The Jews of Budapest, and other cities were sent to live in crowded ghettos. In Budapest many Jews were assembled at the Dohany Synagogue from where they were sent to their deaths. Two thousand Jews who died in the ghetto were buried next to the Dohany Street Synagogue.
After the war, only 140,000 Jews remained in Hungary. Many left the country, immigrating to Israel and other Western countries. In the following years, the Jews remaining in Hungary were challenged once again, this time by Communist rule. However, after the fall of Communism in Hungary, the community was revitalised. In 1990, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, a memorial to the victims of the Holocaust, designed by Imre Varga, was erected in the courtyard of the Dohany Synagogue commemorating the individuals and communities that perished in the Shoah. Behind the memorial, there is also a tombstone memorial in honour of the Righteous Gentile Raoul Wallenberg who rescued many Hungarian Jews. Today the synagogue complex also houses the Jewish museum of Budapest and the Hungarian Jewish archives.
Today the Jewish community of Hungary is the largest in East Central Europe with most living in the capital, Budapest. Budapest has 20 active synagogues and a variety of Jewish religious and cultural institutions. There is debate about the number of Jews living in the country, ranging from 35,000 to 120,000, as most Hungarian Jews are unaffiliated and therefore the number is hard to verify.
Jewish History teachers can use this resource to discuss the Hungarian Jewish community. It can also be used when discussing commemoration of the Shoah.
Teachers of Israel studies can use this when discussing the emergence of the Zionist movement and El Al and the Israeli postal service as symbol of the new State of Israel.
Art teachers can discuss the design of Imre Varga’s scuplture and compare it to other works of art commemorating the Holocaust and other tragic events.
What is this?
What is the image on the left of the envelope?
What is written on the envelope?
Who is the man whose face appears on the stamp?
When was this created?
Why was it created?
What languages can you identify?
Reading Between the Lines
The envelope commemorates the special flight to inaugurate the Weeping Willow Memorial to the Holocaust in Hungary.
Why do you think a special envelope was created in honour of this event?
Herzl appears on this envelope even though he died before the Holocaust.
Why do you think his image was included in this design?
Take a look at the image of the memorial statue.
How does it commemorate the dead?
Where is it located?
Why is it located there?
What other statue commemorating the Holocaust is located nearby?
Theodor Herzl is described in this resource as the “visionary of the State of Israel.”
Find out more about Herzl and his role in the establishment of the State of Israel.
Find the logo of the Israeli postal service on the envelope.
Why do you think this image was chosen as the company’s symbol?
What is significant about the year in which this event occurred?
What historical event happened the previous year?
Have you ever seen a Holocaust memorial?
There are many ways to remember the Holocaust.
What are some other ways? Which do you think is the best way to commemorate the Holocaust? Why?
What do you think about Imre Varga’s sculpture?
Drawing inspiration from the stamp on the envelope, create a stamp with an Israeli personality of your choice.