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ISRAEL. ATM issues 2023, the ‘National Parks’ series

Following on from the 2022 series dedicated to animals living in the urban environment (see articles, published in VARIABLE 64, 65 & 67), the 2023 thematic series of variable value stamps is dedicated to national parks. The year marks the 60th anniversary of the creation of the National Parks Authority, the agency responsible for the management and protection of more than 80 national parks in Israel, many of them historic sites.

Israel Nature and Parks Authority is the governmental organisation managing the national parks and nature reserves. The organisation was established in April 1998, following the merger of the two organisations created in 1964, The National Parks Authority and the Nature Reserves Authority.

The 2023 series consists of seven designs to be released in groups of two throughout the year. The stamps and first day cover illustrations are by Ronen Goldberg, a graphic designer who has previously designed other variable value stamp series. The rolls of labels are manufactured, on self-adhesive paper with a flexo digital imprint, by Tadbick Ltd. The size of the label is 54 x 30 mm, with simulated perforated vertical edges.

The first design which can be considered as the introduction to the series, includes the general wording ‘National Parks’ in Hebrew and English, and the designer, Ronen Goldberg in hebrew. The composition depicts the ruins of the Ottoman fortress of Antipatris in the Yarkon National Park together with the logo of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority.

During the printing of the stamp the postal machine prints its unique code on the stamp (00001, used by the philatelic service, in the image) and the face value (NIS 3.30, the current tariff for domestic mail) in the upper right hand corner. This data in black is thermal (not direct) transfer printed.

The official first day cover produced by Israel Post is also illustrated with an image of the Antipatris castle.
The first day postmark includes the Israel Nature and Parks Authority logo.

This first design was the only one available, from February 7th 2023 and progressively, from all aCon SPU STAMP postal kiosks. The design will be available throughout the year in some machines, whilst only for a few weeks or months in others, until the release of the next new design of the series.
The six main postal rates of 2023 ​​programmed in the postal kiosks, on the date of issue, were NIS 3.30 (domestic postage rate) – 4.20 – 5.50 – 8.50 – 10.00 – 10.90.

The images below show the availability dates of the new design in the nine postal kiosks in operation at different post offices across the country.

The second design in the series is dedicated to Bet Guvrin National Park, a national park in central Israel with a large number of UNESCO World Heritage caves.
The issue was available from March 28th 2023. There are variable value stamps with the code 00001, printed from the back office machine used by the philatelic service, and 00300, issued by the postal kiosk installed at the Ashdod post office.

The official first day cover is illustrated with an image of the ruins of the Byzantine Basilica of St. Anne in the same park.

The postmarks for this series show the map of Israel with a dot indicating the location of each national park.

Issued on the same date as the previous one, March 28th 2023, the third design in the series is dedicated to the well-known Masada National Park, a fortress and archaeological site located on an isolated rocky plateau in the Judean Desert, near the coast of the Dead Sea (main image). It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001.
This design was available with the code 00001, from the printer used by the philatelic service, and 00220, issued by the postal kiosk installed at the Be’er-Sheva branch, the closest post office to the park.

The illustration in the official first day cover shows an aerial view of the plateau with the ruins of the fortress and the ramp built by the Roman army during the siege of 73.

The second set of two designs was issued from August 29th 2023.
One of the designs depicts a photograph of the seating area of the Hippodrome of ancient Caesarea Maritima, in the Caesarea National Park, on the Mediterranean coast.
Like the other designs, this new issue could be obtained with the code 00001, from the machine used by the philatelic service, and with the special code 00636. The kiosk with this code is installed in Netanya, the nearest post office to the park. However, on the date of issue this kiosk had been out of service for months, so Israel Post decided to temporarily move the kiosk installed at the Afula branch (00930) to Netanya, and to modify the software so that it would print the code of the local machine (00636). Even more curious is that for a short time,  the face value of the stamps issued, includes a comma instead of the usual decimal point, as shown in the image on the right.

The official first day cover is illustrated with details of the columns from Herod’s Palace.
The postmark shows the location of the Caesarea National Park, on the Mediterranean coast between Tel Aviv and Haifa.

The second design issued on the same date, August 29th, and the fifth in the ‘National Parks’ series, is dedicated to the so-called Herodion; the Herodium National Park. It is a fortress-palace built on a hill by King Herod the Great between 23 and 20 BC, located south of Jerusalem.
This design could be obtained with the philatelic service code 00001 and 00101, issued by the postal kiosk installed at the Jerusalem post office, again the one closest to the park.

The official first day cover illustration shows an impressive aerial view of the palace, with the grand ceremonial staircase on the northeast side.

With a long delay compared to previous years, the third and last set of the two designs was issued on December 12th 2023, just a few days before the end of the year.
One of the designs is dedicated to the Baram National Park in northern Israel, near the border with Lebanon. It depicts details of one of the gates of the ancient synagogue of Kfar Baram, built in the 3rd century, during the Talmudic period.
This design could be obtained with the codes 00001 and 00714, the latter issued by the postal kiosk installed at the Haifa post office.

The official cover illustration depicts the façade of the synagogue, facing south towards Jerusalem, together with a portico of six columns.

The seventh and last design in the series is dedicated to the Nimrod Fortress National Park, a fortress built on the southern slopes of Mount Hermon and rebuilt in the 13th century to protect the road to Damascus.
In addition to the code 00001, there are stamps of this design with the special code 00900, issued by the postal kiosk at the Tiberias branch.

The fortress was built north of what is now known as the Golan Heights, a strategic plateau located on the border between Israel, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.

In December 2023, Israel Post released a new special souvenir pictorial folder containing all the designs in the series dedicated to National Parks, with informative texts in Hebrew and English.
The folder contains eight stamps; the seven designs of the series with their corresponding first day postmarks, plus the first design on the cover, in this case with a special postmark with the map of Israel and the locations of all the parks featured in the series.

A nice series, and surely this article – in addition to the philatelic details contained therein – will have awakened your interest in visiting these parks, … but we will have to wait for some time … In the meantime, why don’t you visit our online shop?

(English edition rewritten by J. Gareze – May 2024)

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