Synoposis (of a 30-page article): an examination of a simple-looking interim period cover postmarked at the Haifa head post office on 6 May 1948 reveals extraordinary findings. First, we learn that the Haifa head post office came under interim control as scheduled on 6 May – contrary to what has been written in several key books of specialized postal history literature. Second, by way of investigating an unusual “via Taxi Kesher” routing notation on that cover, we learn that there was a phenomenon of mail from northern Mandate Palestine / interim Israel that was sorted in the north but postmarked in the south, at Tel Aviv, without any sorting office or transit markings – this we glean by observing Nahariya “emergency mail” whose unusual instances as these are sometimes called mail “carried by taxi”, but why?


To understand that phenomenon we first learn how mail entered the posts and was processed, we further learn that some cornerstone information from first-hand sources is inaccurate and that we need to study matters from the bottom, up: we learn about the types of postal markings used by the public counters and sorting offices, and we learn about postal routes and handling which would explain when and why we would see these markings; we learn that mail of the Nahariya type that was postmarked in Tel Aviv entered the mails through the Haifa head post office; we also learn – by studying situations in which we should expect to see sorting office and routing marks – that from the Haifa HPO there was a marked declined in these markings from about mid-April 1948, indeed that the sorting office markings ceased completely around that time.


We factor in historical circumstances to get a better sense of what occurred in the city at that time, and how this may have affected postal operations. We then consider how postal operations were handled here as opposed to at head post offices in the rest of the country: by studying mail we see clear and overt signs that there was a backlog of work at Haifa and that various postal functions were either curtailed or stopped altogether. A byproduct of our study reveals that there were multiple postmark devices of the same type in use at the HPO during the Israeli postal administration.


Marshalling documentary evidence from press reports from the period we uncover that indeed there were staffing and service shortages specifically at Haifa; that taxi services had been contracted in the past by the Mandate for the transit of mail – but that here in April-May 1948 – there was a special connection between the Haifian postal service and the Taxi Kesher company, and that the use of external transport services to augment the nascent Israeli Haifa postal service continued well into 1948. We end with the case of a cover return addressed from Tel Aviv and addressed to Haifa – but postmarked in Haifa, and posit that this may be mail of the same taxi transported kind, sent in the reverse direction.


This article is an expose of remarkable discoveries I uncovered while researching what initially appeared to be a very specific, finite point, for the sole purpose of being precise in an item description. As often happens in the world of philately, something remarkable could exist under our noses and remain undetected for all time unless we’re alert and spot it out. A fitting subtitle to this article would be that everything is interesting if you examine it closely enough; everything has significance if you understand it well enough - but you’d be surprised how many critical but seemingly mundane aspects of philately we see every day go by unexamined…


When did the Haifa Head Post Office become part of Minhelet Haam?

At first glance this cover looks unremarkable: typewritten, with an interim frank and Haifa machine cancel. I happened to unearth it because I got tangled in an unusual quandary trying to write the description for another cover: I was about to spice it up by writing – as an extra piece of trivia – that uniquely at Haifa the head post office remained under British control until Sunday 9 May 1948, 4 days past the scheduled date of Thursday May 6th for the transfer of the head post offices to the Minhelet Ha’am interim postal administration. It then occurred to me that this, implicitly, made no sense – why should the HPO have continued existing independently under the Mandate for 4 more days, in a city liberated by Jewish forces two weeks earlier, as a parallel postal administration with Minhelet Ha’am which itself entered force on 2 May at the secondary towns and the city's branch offices? – and, I asked myself, where did I get that information from? After all, the cover here was posted on May 6th with an interim stamp, and its sole sin is that it was postmarked by the Mandate machine cancel at the head post office.


I consulted Zvi Aloni’s book on the interim period where it was written (“Postal Administrations of British Mandate, Minhelet Ha’am and Israel”, pg. 52/211) that the HPO opened to the public on May 10th and operated for only 5 days during the interim period, until the 14th; in Shimony-Karpovsky-Aloni in the chapter on Nahariya emergency mail (“The Postal History of the Transition Period in Israel, 1948 – Part 2, Vol. II: The Emergency, Local and Private Postal Services”, referenced in this article as ‘TPHTPIp2v2’, pg. 45) it was written that the head post office passed into Jewish control on May 10th, and the interim postal service began to operate there. Mystified still further I asked myself who originated the idea that the HPO was either closed before 10 May or not part of the interim postal service, and rolled on over to Ernst Fluri (1973 pg. 55/58) who wrote that the HPO was “re-opened to the public on 10th May 1948”. I spent a solid day researching the press archives, which documented every esoteric detail of history in those days – and found nothing to back up the claim that the HPO had not passed into interim control on schedule.


I haven’t been able to find an earlier source for this assertion but as we see on this cover the interim postal service actually operated from the 6th – on schedule – but simply lacked an interim cancelling device until the 10th, when it received a specially designed dateless canceller commonly called the “split oval” type. The image below shows an interim-franked cover tied by the same machine cancel on May 9th – evidence that the HPO was open and running also then (Sunday), and that mail was indeed being processed by the interim postal administration. The HPO never “re-opened” because it hadn’t been closed down in the first place.


(A 9 May 1948 postmarked cover from the Haifa HPO, with interim franking and Mandate machine cancel – Doron Waide auction 29, lot #80)

One practical outcome of this revelation is that it would appear to overturn a position held by Ernst Fluri (“Spurious Interim Material of Haifa”, BAPIP Bulletin #58, March 1958, quoted by Bruno Forscher in “The Interim Period Postage Stamps of Israel” p.117 – but not expressed so explicitly in Fluri’s 1973 book), that the un-numbered HAIFA registry label of the HPO could not have been used on mail before 10 May because the HPO was closed during the interim period prior to that date.


The lesson here is, other than being alert to empirical evidence, we have to always be thinking critically and asking ourselves “why?”



Unravelling a Mystery which begins with “Taxi Mail”

But that’s child’s play. Let’s discuss something more ground-breaking: at first glance nothing else about the headlined cover seems untoward… addressed to Tel Aviv and franked 10m for the period inland letter rate. Everything’s fine. There is a notation at the bottom about Taxi Kesher, but that’s probably where it’s addressed – or is it?


The notation is actually a routing request “via Taxi Kesher”: the sender addressed the cover to a specific person, a Dr. Oskar Jehoshua Gruenbaum at 101 Yehuda HeLevy Street – a well-known Austrian-Zionist activist in his time, and that’s his own address. Taxi Kesher’s address in Tel Aviv was at 33 Rothschild Street, between Allenby & Yavne streets. Taxi mail – the transport of letters by taxi – was illegal, and drivers heavily fined if caught; this cover is both submitted in-person at the head post office and the sender is telling the post office to send it by taxi(!) So what’s going on?



Nahariya Emergency Mail as a Methodology

To understand this, I propose we take a look at an example contemporary to this cover – surprisingly, Nahariya sea-transported emergency mail, as it provides a clue to this puzzle. The company “Taxi Kesher” specifically appears frequently in the annals of Nahariya emergency mail of this period, usually as an occasional paid-for service within Haifa; some mail is also addressed directly to it, in Haifa and Tivon in this period.


Here too, a number of Nahariya covers are known cancelled in Tel Aviv without any Haifa postal markings and one AIEP-certified dealer (I try to be discreet) describes these as having been “carried by taxi” - though lacking any such markings, and the dealer providing no evidence to back up his claim: nevertheless roll with this, you’ll soon see why.


(covers carried privately by Taxi Kesher [top row, left] or addressed to its offices and sent through the mails; TAS #32-877, #T35-634, #45-145)


The Nahariya emergency sea-mail service, which ran from March-May 1948, was a privately run service which accumulated mail from besieged Nahariya and sent it by sea to Haifa in exchange for a surcharge; incoming mail was similarly carried also in exchange for a surcharge. The average transit time, from dispatch to transit-receipt, in either direction was 3-4 days. The benefit of studying specifically Nahariya mail for this inquiry is that her emergency service, which employed special slogan cachets, provides us both with dispatch dates as well as transit-arrival dates (something we usually have the benefit of seeing only on registered mail): the special slogan cachets served only as postmarks for the purpose of collecting fees for the use of the mail service, thus leaving the franking initially untouched until cancelled by the receiving post office which entered the mail into the posts - either at Haifa or as we shall see, also Tel Aviv; from 6 May when the Nahariya post office received its own interim cancelling device, this mail was then cancelled locally in Nahariya and we no longer see the effect I want to focus on.


Bypassing the Haifa Head Post Office - The Tel Aviv Connection

Based on a study and census of mail sent from Nahariya in April-May 1948 it seems that mail posted at Nahariya from April 23rd to addresses in Tel Aviv or nearby towns - even Jerusalem - was withheld and the franks were subsequently cancelled in Tel Aviv in almost all cases by a device dated May 5th*, bypassing the Haifa HPO; prior to the 23rd the mail was postmarked at the Haifa HPO, and in any case if the address was outside Haifa but north of Tel Aviv, like Givat Brenner (in the center of the country), or addressed abroad - then the cover was also postmarked in Haifa (though also observed with Tel Aviv postmarking – depending on the situation at Lydda airfield which closed on April 25th while Haifa airport took over in its stead). As of now the latest dated postmarked cover I’ve seen with a [5 May] Tel Aviv cancel is from 27 April. Of a population sample of mail displayed in Shimony-Karpovsky-Aloni, Zvi Aloni’s own book, Yaakov Tsachor’s auction catalogues (photo-credited here as TAS) and my own inventory I find no less than 12 covers with Tel Aviv cancellations in the dispatch period of 23-27 April – a significant and surprisingly large sample population for mail (emergency mail) which in principle is deemed scarce.


* I phrased the expression “device dated May 5th” deliberately in passive voice to place emphasis on the device being dated such and not the mail being cancelled that date because at the Tel Aviv HPO during the interim period (6-14 May) “frozen-dated” Mandate postmarks were used to indicate that mail had passed through the HPO – and these were fixed-dated May 5th (the last day of the Mandate postal administration at the HPO), although they may have been used any time later during the interim period. As such, a 5 May cancellation does not necessarily mean that these covers were cancelled on that specific date (and most likely they were not) - they could have been cancelled any time between 5-14 May (on the last day of the Mandate service, 5 May, or anytime subsequently during the interim administration).


(at top the latest observed postmarked date of 22 April of mail for Tel Aviv cancelled still in Haifa on the 26th - TAS #T40-52; middle row: at left, the earliest observed postmarked date of 23 April of Nahariya mail, for Kfar Sava, subsequently cancelled in Tel Aviv on "5 May" & bearing the interim dateless postmark – TAS #42-377; at right, the latest observed postmarked date of 27 April, for Tel Aviv and cancelled there on "5 May" – TAS #31-385; bottom row: 25 April postmarked air mail cover to the US cancelled 26 April in Tel Aviv – TAS #37-64)


Now, why should that finding matter? To better appreciate it we need to be aware of how the postal system works and then to understand how the Nahariya mail service interacted with it.


Postmark Types Have Critical Meaning

Let’s first review how mail enters the mail stream. Mail can enter the postal service in one of two ways: either by being deposited at the public counters or by being brought in through the ‘back end’ - in mail bags, as mail emptied from letter boxes or mail in transit, and subsequently being handled by a ‘sorting department’. In the Mandate era, although certain classes of post offices sorted mail, special designated sorting offices existed only at the ‘Head Post Offices’ of the 4 major cities of Jaffa, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa.


Each channel into the mail stream – public counter and back-office – marked the mail the processed in differing manners. The public counters used a double-ring cancelling device (with Maltese Cross at the base) whereas the sorting office used a plainer, simpler type with a single ring. The HPOs also had machine cancellers. Thanks to the acclaimed philatelist Jonathan Becker (Indiana, USA) who kindly replied to my questions, we have some important insights as to the location and use of these machines: these were typically in the work area behind the public counters and were used to process quantities of mail coming from mail carriers, boxes, stacks of mail from walk-in customers; a single letter handed to a clerk might receive a hand stamp at the counter or at times of heavy traffic get set aside for machine (or hand) canceling later, with other collected mail. The public would never have access to the machines - or seldom even see them from a distance in most offices. And from what we can observe on Mandate mail as well as foreign mail, machine cancels were rarely used here as [sorting office] transit marks (unlike in some other countries), but rather to cancel franking. From this we can infer that although the cancellation machines may have served both the public counters as well as the sorting office as a shared resource, these were overwhelmingly used for the mass cancellation of mail brought in through the public counters. As such, as we will see, these are not markings of the sorting office.


Having understood in broad strokes how the postal system worked, we can now turn to the operation of the Nahariya emergency mail service to see how it interacted with it. As is often the case, objects with which we have frequent contact are not necessarily objects which we understand with any great depth (as in the case of machine cancels). Here too, with the published research of the Nahariya mail service we don’t really know exactly how that post entered the mail stream – this is a learning point, again emphasizing the need to be precise in our understanding of things. Consider what we learn from Shimony-Karpovsky-Aloni – and take note of the details: on page 18 we learn that letters from Nahariya were delivered to Haifa harbor and then taken to the office of a Nahariya resident, Shaul Finzi, who worked in the Hadar HaCarmel neighborhood; he would take the mail to the “Mandate Post Office” where they were cancelled and entered the postal system (a simple reading would suggest that the mail was handed into the Hadar HaCarmel branch post office). On page 20 we’re told that the initial consignment of mail was addressed to Finzi, who posted it at the Hadar HaCarmel branch post office on HeHalutz Street, and on page 21 we’re told that mail from this service “was posted at the Haifa Post Offices”. My point is, in the narrative the mail’s point of entry into the mail stream keeps changing – was the mail deposited at numerous post offices or at one specific place? Was it always brought in through the public counter or was it bagged? From what I’ve seen for this research the mail was handed in at the Haifa Head Post Office; of mail with the rare 1st Slogan cachet (i.e. the initial consignment alluded to above) I also see only postmarks of the HPO and not of the Hadar HaCarmel branch office – branch offices had their own unique postmarks bearing their name. And the referenced article here (and auction catalogues elsewhere) does not illustrate any covers addressed to Shaul Finzi. I say this not out of criticism of the article but rather to re-emphasize that we should always be thinking and re-thinking, checking and re-checking; accuracy and precision are paramount to understanding postal history, one misstep and we risk misunderstanding a complete idea. Not everything that has been recollected or written down is necessarily correct. We have to approach the empirical evidence too and see what it reveals to us.*


A Lesson in Thinking Critically - and Being Released from Dependence on "Personal Recollections"

[* FOOTNOTE: of the estimated 14 known covers bearing Nahariya’s rare 1st Slogan cachet, existing with 2 different time stamps on 22 March 1948 - between TAS auction catalogues #39-49, the cited article above & Daryl Kibble’s displayed cover in his book – 8 items in all, none bear Finzi’s address, and between them we have examples of mail from both consignments sent that first day of operation. I don’t say this lightly, recollections can be erroneous: if we cast a glance at emergency mail services contemporary to Nahariya’s, like the inner-city “Haifa Messengers” delivery service we find its founder, adv. Israel Amikam, writing already in 1951 that over a period of around 100 days between Feb-May 1948 his circuit’s 9-11 collection stations and 4 drivers – through increasing tumult and turbulence, and the death of one driver - carried 35,000 pieces of mail. How can we quantify “35,000”? That’s the about the equivalent (and possibly more) of all the transatlantic mail carried by the emergency ‘PEDI’ (“Palestine Emergency Deliveries Inc.”) private air mail service run by the Jewish Agency from the US, as air freight, between May-July 1948 – the only airmail link from the US to Israel until postal relations were renewed in late-June; 25,776 mail items are serial numbered to the end of June + whatever else was posted unmarked throughout July (source: IFPL p.94). We need to see this figure, alleged and recorded, of 35,000 in proportion to the population sizes: Haifa numbered 145,000 residents in 1947 (much less by Feb-May 1948), while America’s population that same year was 100x times that (ref: “Haifa” on Wikipedia & US data on Amikam’s estimate is likely – highly – over-estimated. Press reports from 1951 (‘Herut’ newspaper of 18 April 1951, p.4), quoting Amikam’s then recently published monogram on the Messengers service, mention a monthly income per driver of 20 Pounds; Shimony-Karpovsky-Aloni (p.226) give a monthly income figure per driver of 70 Pounds: the average annual income per capita among the Jewish community in Palestine for 1947, before the War began, was 63.27 Pounds – 5.8 Pounds a month (Angus Maddison in “The World Economy” p.211), making both the quoted messenger salaries highly unlikely. If the circuit’s participating stations kept changing owing to storekeeper “complaints” that the service was “interfering with business” – even with their receiving 10% of the turnover – and Arab attacks limiting and restricting both the service’s operations as well as its customers’ (p.225-226), it seems the service was not as large or profitable as suggested. And in light of the market values for standard non-1st Flight PEDI mail running between $30-60 a cover versus $300-5,000 (yes, with three zeros) for a Haifa Messengers cover, the actual quantity of mail it carried is probably closer to a tenth or even a fifth of Amikam’s estimate. For this we can compare it to the contemporary Rishon Le Zion armored car mail service, who with all the publicity its 12,000 stamps received in the press - according to a census of existing covers – carried between 1500-2000 letters, of which only 10 are deemed genuine commercial covers (Shimony-Karpovsky-Aloni p.103). In short, we need to research everything from the bottom up in order to understand our postal history.]


Establishing a Conceptual Baseline for Understanding Nahariya Mail

Now, having established that the Nahariya mail was mostly/exclusively handed in to the public counters we can better appreciate the significance of the postmarks that we see on that mail: of the 50+ mail items I observed, with the exception of one, all the Haifa-marked mail was cancelled either by the HPO’s double-ring canceller or by the machine cancel. In other words, the mail was either cancelled on the spot by the clerk or set aside by him during rush-hour and cancelled later en-masse by machine. Of the single item with a different Haifa postmark, this is the single-circle canceller of the sorting office, dated 15 April – the latest dated cancel of this type that I have seen on any Haifa mail at all (not just the Nahariya mail).


(TAS #42-376: an 11 April postmarked postcard cancelled by the sorting office on 15 April – the latest dated such cancel that I have seen and one of the very few observed in this period on any Haifa mail. This is likely device GD #31 with un-parallel bars on the ‘H’ and an extended ‘F’)


This is an extraordinary observation. In this specific instance it may be that the consignment of Nahariya mail this postcard was part of was uniquely added to a bag of mail; perhaps it was the only item from Nahariya that day and for convenience the carrier of that mail was allowed to insert it into a mail bag. What we have to appreciate is the consequence of this finding: the mail we learned about above, which was segregated into mail addressed to locales in the north as opposed to those addressed to the south, which was retained and cancelled in Haifa, passed some kind of sorting process – but the Haifa mail continued to be marked by double-ring and machine cancels of the public counters whereas the Tel Aviv bound mail was not cancelled by the Haifa HPO’s sorting office or public counter and transited but rather it was skipped over and transited – and cancelled in Tel Aviv by the sorting office there instead. As we know about the operation of the Nahariya mail service there was no direct link to Tel Aviv, it had to go to Haifa first – so what happened?


The Sorting Function as the Source of the Mystery

I want to propose two ideas: 1) sometime close to 15 April the sorting office cancellers were decommissioned and removed, and moreover 2) around this same time the operation of the sorting office was severely curtailed. By contrast, and although serving as routing and arrival markings, the Haifa REGISTRATION postmarks of the registry department were not decommissioned, as we continue seeing these in use through to mid-May – but these are rarely seen in the period of mid-April to mid-May, and this observation will be addressed further down.


Regardless of how other mail may have (or not) been sorted at the Haifa HPO prior to 23 April, from that date on when we begin seeing the Tel Aviv sorting office’s postmark cancelling Nahariya mail, I believe that the mail was sorted by the clerks at the public counter and that whatever was relevant for transit in the northern part of the country was cancelled by them (on the spot or thereafter by machine) or set aside uncancelled as south-bound mail and entered into mail bags for transfer to Tel Aviv.


Factoring in Historical Circumstances

Certain historical circumstances may help explain what happened to mail service in general and the Haifa HPO specifically at this time. Broadly, in the background there was the scheduled winding-down of the Mandate postal service together with the growing intensity of armed conflict between Arabs and Jews: the postal wind-down began already in early 1948 reaching a critical period which began on Thursday April 15th with various limitations, from the closing of rural post offices to restrictions in mail dispatches in general; when handled clumsily or deliberately heavy-handedly and short-sightedly, the Jews termed this era of the Mandate government wind-down “Government Tohu Vavohu” (‘chaos government’). In the specific period of April-May, there were problems with the function of the railway between Haifa and Rafah, with the service being suspended altogether on the 12th; transport arteries were affected by the British evacuation for the termination of the Mandate as well as by military attacks, to the point where by April 18th letters to the editor in newspapers were suggesting use of private transport companies to carry mail. The period press reports are replete with examples, and the following notices from Jerusalem merely convey the atmosphere as it existed nationwide:



The military/security situation in Haifa, between Jews and Arabs, dangerous already as far back as January and affecting the operation of the HPO as well (causing it to close and re-open), came to a head with the sudden withdrawal of British troops from Haifa between 18-20 April and the launch of the Battle of Haifa by pre-State Jewish forces on 21-22 April. This was followed by martial law, restricted zones and mopping-up operations – all affecting the movement of people and traffic in the city - which lasted from the 23rd until 4 May; the main road between Haifa and Tel Aviv was reopened to public transport on May 5th. As such, for almost two full weeks the city and transport around it was in turmoil.


There was also an 8 day period of the Passover/Hol MaMoed holiday, running from Sabbath/holiday eve on Friday 23 April until Saturday 1 May, with Thursday the 29th also being holiday eve for the 7th Day of Passover; Orthodox Jews would not have taken pen to paper and in religious areas the post offices would have been shut throughout.


Press reports from the period (‘HaTzofe’ newspaper of 14 May, p.2) mention that on the eve of Independence (14 May) the national postal service numbered 3,868 employees – of whom 75% were Arab, “mostly employed in transport and workshops”; indeed there were whole professions in the service whose staffers were either mostly Jewish or Arab, and in some cases as in Jerusalem – in this period of “civil war” - whole floors of the HPO were staffed either by one or the other ethnic/religious group and they avoided contact with each other. The ‘Herut’ newspaper of 18 April 1951 (“The Private Mail Service of Haifa” about the Haifa Messengers service, p.4) describes a work environment at Haifa in the period of Jan-Apr 1948 in which Arab postal workers didn’t come to work for days at a time while others eavesdropped on Jewish telephone communications or stole mail intended for Jewish neighborhoods. The military operation in Haifa caused a mass exodus of Arabs from the city, and though followed by an appeal for Arabs to return, assuredly affected the operation of businesses and offices in the city. For any of these reasons functions of the HPO, like the sorting office, may have been affected.



Empirical Evidence from Examined Mail

As we will see the consequence of these events is visible on Haifa mail: a marked lack of Mandate postmarks at the HPO - as if either a function or a sorting activity was curtailed; and unusual processing times for mail - suggesting that there was backlog or logistical problems.


Here, even from the sample population of observed Nahariya mail we see something odd: two covers addressed no less to the same person, dispatched on the same day (25 April) – but processed in Haifa several days later (the standard transit time was 3-4 days at most), and days apart from one another; one (at left) on 2 May and another (at right) on 4 May (reference: TAS #T35-638 & #44-173):



To make sense of these observations we need to understand when and why we would see postal markings of the HPOs on mail – for this we need to understand how mail was routed (and sorted), and for that we need a conceptual map of how the various national post offices interacted with one another:


Understanding the Interaction of Post Offices and Mail Routings

The country had 4 main cities – Jerusalem, Jaffa, Tel Aviv and Haifa, and each of these had a ‘Head Post Office’ which acted as an ‘international office of exchange’, functioning 12-14 hours a day every day of the week (except Tel Aviv, which closed on Saturdays; as per the press notice above, in Haifa the times were curtailed to 7 hours from 31 March), offering all of the available postal services and including various specialized departments such as the money order and registry departments, and ‘Sorting Offices’; at these cities there were subordinate ‘branch post offices’, which operated according to the same hours as the HPOs - but did not handle delivery services. Outside the 4 major cities there were smaller ‘Post Offices’ and ‘Class B’ postal agencies, which offered all the postal services (the latter being all delivery offices) but operated on a shorter schedule of 6 days a week – the former for 7 hours and the latter for 4; ‘Town Agencies’ existed only in Tel Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem, and operated the same hours as ‘Post Offices’, though offering more limited services and only sometimes serving as delivery offices; and ‘Class C’ postal agencies operated for only 2 hours a day and offered a more limited range of postal services. These 4 latter classes of post offices took one day off a week in accordance to the tradition of the locale they served – Fridays in Moslem areas, Saturdays in Jewish areas, and Sundays in Christian areas. The larger of the secondary post offices maintained cancelling devices for both over the counter as well as transit/arrival markings and even special dateless cancels for bulk mail.


During the interim period of 2-14 May, with Jerusalem and Jaffa under siege, the areas controlled by the Jewish-run interim administration divided postal operations into the Northern region overseen by the Haifa HPO and the Southern region overseen by the Tel Aviv HPO (sources: Dorfman p.10 & original post office document in Aloni p.144-5).


Here we have a rough outline of the constellation of post offices that operated in the country, and their hierarchy and functions (or lack thereof) in turn created the system by which mail was transported within the country or into/out from it.


As a basic rule of thumb ordinary domestic mail (unregistered etc.) - letter or printed matter - passed through the posts without additional markings to the original postmark of the dispatching office. That said, there are periods in Mandate postal history where such mail was consistently stamped with routing and arrival marks and this is seen specifically in the era of the Great Arab Revolt, from the mid 1930s to 1939 - possibly as a way of allaying fears that mail was going missing; we also see such markings on mail of the domestic air mail service between Tel Aviv and Haifa of late 1938-1939.


Nevertheless this is technically unusual on ordinary mail and these additional markings are precisely what give added value to registered mail service - the requirement for that mail to be monitored and tracked along its journey. With this type of mail we can learn very specific procedures by which mail was sorted and routed:


Most fundamentally any incoming or outgoing international mail had to be handled by the HPO; it could originate from any locale but its journey into the country or out from it had to be through one of the HPOs. As such, at a minimum we should see the oval postmarks of the registry division serving as transit or arrival marks on this type of mail. Here we can see a variety of postmark combinations: for instance mail carried by rail, if outbound, would be stamped by the HPO and then by the relevant traveling post office (TPO) postmark; air mail at various periods was dispatched and received at Gaza, Haifa, Tel Aviv and Lydda from where it would be routed by the HPO servicing that airport – though specifically at Lydda, which had a registry division of its own, we would see its oval registry postmark followed by another of the HPO serving the region to which that mail was addressed. In other cases involving pure road transport we would see incoming mail handled at the initial HPO servicing that route followed by any other HPO handling the mail in domestic transit; the mail could be subsequently marked by additional post offices (in descending order of their size/classification) along the distribution route – or not at all, if the destination address was handled in the proximity of the last HPO handling the mail.


With regards to domestic registered mail we see a number of patterns: within the 4 major cities, if mail was sent from a post office which was also responsible for the area of the delivery address (eg. the mail was sent to addresses handled by the same post office), it was not backstamped; if mail was sent to an area handled by a different branch office then we would see that branch office’s backstamp as an arrival mark. Registered mail sent between locales in the same region was not routed via an HPO, such as mail from Rosh Pinna to Tiberias (TAS #49-134) or Kfar Yona (class C PA) to Netanya (PO; TAS #46-173) or Kiryat Motzkin (PO) to Kiryat Hayim (PO; TAS #45-171). Registered mail from large towns to small ones (and vice versa) could have transited secondary cities along the route, for instance mail from Tarshiha (class B PA) to Haifa (HPO) routed via Acre (PO; TAS #49-139) or June 1948 Safed (PO) to Haifa (HPO) routed via Rosh Pinna (PO; TAS #45-153). Mail from one region to another would transit via the HPO servicing the region/s, for example mail from Hidjaz Street (TA) in Haifa to Jerusalem went via the Haifa HPO and onto the Jerusalem HPO (TAS #44-169).


In some cases, seen especially during the interim period, mail from one locale to another transiting an HPO may not have received an arrival marking, such as examples of mail from Kfar Sirkin (class C PA) to Givatayim bearing a Tel Aviv transit marking but none at the destination (TAS #46-172) or mail from Rishon LeZion to besieged Jerusalem bearing a Tel Aviv transit marking but none at Jerusalem (TAS #46-193) – in these two instance (plus most others) the Tel Aviv transit marking was effected using a ‘frozen dated’ Mandate era registry or sorting office canceller serving as evidence the mail had passed through that HPO.


Focusing on the Role of HPOs in April-May 1948 Mail Routings

Nevertheless, from mid-April we see almost no instances of the Haifa HPO’s sorting office marking any kind of mail, and specifically in the interim period we see virtually no cases of the HPO backstamping registered mail coming from other areas of the city – either with Registry or sorting office markings; we only see branch office backstamps. Likewise with mail to or from other locales: we see many instances of branch office backstamps, but almost none with Haifa HPO backstamps.


A typical interim period registered cover to Haifa: posted from Petach Tikva, but not backstamped by the Haifa HPO in transit but rather only by the receiving post office, here as per the deformity and the street address, the Hadar HaCarmel branch office.


By contrast – virtually overnight – from the first day of the Israeli postal administration, Sunday 16 May, we begin seeing Haifa HPO transit and arrival markings: TAS #44-511 (reverse unillustrated) describes an Israeli 16 May Haifa arrival marking on an interim registered cover from Alonim; and in a more egregious case, (TAS #39-80 – reverse unillustrated) on an interim era registered cover from Tel Aviv to Safed, there is no Haifa HPO transit marking but there is one from Rosh Pinna – nevertheless, on its return back to sender (as the addressee was unknown) there is an Israeli Haifa transit marking.


What could have affected the processing of mail at the Haifa HPO at this time? To understand that we need to get a better sense of how mail was handled at the other HPOs from about mid-April 1948 when the Mandate postal service started to wind down, and see if something unusual occurred specifically at Haifa:


in Jaffa precisely at this time, the city was under siege by Jewish forces and the status of its HPO is unclear; in Jerusalem the public counters and the processing of mail ceased around the 27th of April; we see from the mail shown above and cases in general that at the Tel Aviv HPO postal functions continued normally until May 6th, when the interim postal administration took over. At Haifa we see that the sorting and registry departments mostly stopped marking (and possibly also processing) mail sometime around 15 April…


…but in the interim period of 6-14 May, when the HPOs came under the control of the interim administration, do we know anything about the function of the sorting offices? This is a question that I haven’t seen posed for some 70 years in our literature.


Jaffa, still being under Arab control at this time, was not part of the interim postal administration so that settles the question of the Jaffa HPO. In Jerusalem postal operations ceased completely between 27 April and 8 May, resuming partially on the 9th under the aegis of the interim administration. Per Aloni (p.212) “The sorting office that was in the Main Post Office had to be moved to a more secure location amidst the Jewish districts… on the verge of Rehavia and the City Center. On the first few days between 9 & 12 May a single circle Mandate postmark was used in the sorting office to process mail found in the mailboxes around the city, that was deposited between April 26 and May 9”; a special interim-styled canceller with rosette devices came into use thereafter on the 13th – this means that the mail in the letter boxes sat untouched for exactly 2 weeks before an organized sorting function got established.


On this point, I just want to momentarily address a disingenuous comment that I've seen before in the specialist literature, to the effect that this rosette postmark is extremely rare as a canceller on registered mail: taking into account what we learned about mail markings above, quite clearly we shouldn't expect to see any sorting office postmark cancelling franks on registered mail - implying that the cover was deposited into a mail box rather than at a public counter - because that defies the whole purpose of using registered mail, which is to receive in-person a postmarked receipt slip confirming the dispatch of that article of mail(!) If entered into a letter box, the sender obviously receives no proof of dispatch - so what's the point of [spending extra money and] sending the mail registered?


Examining Postal Activity at Haifa HPO by Way of Postal Markings

But what about Haifa (and Tel Aviv)? No special interim period sorting office markings are known for either city, so we have to study their use of Mandate devices as auxiliary post office markings – were any available? Let’s consider the absolute minimum circumstance where these may be seen: as per the interim period’s postal regulations, mail destined abroad needed to be posted from the HPOs, franked with UPU complaint postage stamps (the Mandate stamps) and cancelled by UPU compliant postmark devices (those of the Mandate) - at a minimum, we should be able to observe this on mail of the period.


Although overseas mail in this period is very rare, at Tel Aviv these markings are observed but at Haifa it seems that their use at the public counters ended around 9 May. Below on the left (TAS #47-231) is an air-letter properly franked and cancelled on the 9th, but on the right (TAS #44-126) we only see Mandate franks: based on the application of the ‘split ovals’ dateless postmarks of the HPO we see a cover posted sometime between 10-14 May; though patriotically franked with interim stamps which are invalid for overseas postage, the sender or HPO correctly added the needed Mandate stamps to make this a UPU compliant cover for overseas mailing… but then the HPO undercut this effort by epileptically cancelling the stamps with its UPU non-compliant interim canceller. In such a specific instance, where absolute adherence to procedure was required, the HPO could not muster the necessary Mandate postmark to complete the task.



NOW, this is odd because the Haifa HPO actually still possessed the Mandate oval REGISTERED HAIFA device: although this is virtually unseen on mail of this period, this is the marking that should have been used to cancel the franks on the interim cover above. I haven’t seen a single instance of an arrival-stamped cover at the HPO – by interim or Mandate device - and in spite of much period mail which would have transited Haifa to other locales I have only seen one instance of genuine usage, as a 12 May dated transit marking using the Mandate oval REGISTERED HAIFA device on a domestic registered cover from Tel Aviv to Rosh Pinna (below); TAS #41-409 describes a 12 May Haifa transited domestic registered cover but does not illustrate the Mandate marking; Aloni (p.29) illustrates an express registered airmail cover from Austria to Tiberias, blurry and with unclear circumstances, but bearing a 9 May oval Haifa registered cancel. Thus far we have one case of the Mandate oval in use while the HPO still employed Mandate postmarks (prior to 10 May), and two cases with the same date during the period where the HPO reverted to the interim postmark (10-14 May). The rarely seen use of the Mandate marking, especially in an overt case like the overseas interim cover above, suggests that it may not have been available throughout. In any case the application of the Mandate postmark to mail suggests that a formal sorting office/function did exist at the HPO but that its scope, work methods and staffing were limited.



Warning – Beware of Drawing Conclusions from Philatelic Mail

I am aware of cases where there are Mandate postmarks on Haifa mail of this period but on close inspection these all appear to be philatelic: either the sender/addressee is a known philatelic personality, like Leo Better, Max/Mordechai/Zehava Brisker, Edward Bowman or Zrubavel Shaltieli, whose covers bear many questionable ‘favor cancels’ or the covers have received ‘favor treatment’ whereby certain markings are applied (or not) or certain postal procedures are followed (or not); or the markings used are spurious, misused and patently not related to the cover at hand. As noted above “Haifa Registered” oval handstamps do not appear to have been used as a practice on mail in the interim period, as daters or transit marks, and on the few covers where I’ve seen these the covers are philatelic or bear hallmarks of being such. Likewise instances where the single-circle canceller appears, those that I’ve seen are unlike the Nahariya postcard example above, and have a wide H letter – likely GD #35 - which Goldstein-Dickstein assign to the Telegraphs department.


(A classic philatelic cover, TAS #47-253: addressed to the philatelist Max/Zehava Brisker and franked with Mandate stamps – 3 days after they became invalid for postage; passed through 3 post offices (via Tiberias), untaxed including at Haifa where backstamped – which as we will see below, taxed ‘everything’. With covers of this type we cannot learn anything or draw conclusions about postal routes and procedures. Sold for almost $1200 including the buyer’s fee…)


(Apropos taxing everything - a border-line case either of excessive due diligence or a philatelic cover [T40-189]: a 2nd convoy cover from besieged Jerusalem, franked correctly using Mandate stamps - which prior to 9 May were the only type available there; likely entered into a letter box and so uncancelled; received at Haifa & taxed on account of the demonetized stamps. Incredulous as the HPO assuredly knew that 2 convoys of backdated mail from Jerusalem were arriving, and other such covers had been handled - correctly - untaxed. Here even the penalty is excessive as in this time non-business addresses were normally charged just the deficiency and not twice that, as ordinarily charged. A glance that the address is Shiloch Street [2a] where Brisker lived [at #9] leads me to suspect that this is a philatelic cover... which cost the lucky winner c.$3800)


(A typical type of philatelic cover with a surrious single circle Mandate postmark, presumably of the sorting office but with the wide "H" this is GD #35 assigned to the Telegraphs department - and return addressed to Zrubavel Shaltieli)


Indications of Postal Activity Curtailment

Although sorting work could not of course be stopped, for otherwise no mail would have passed through the HPO, there are hallmarks on Haifa mail suggesting that certain activities were stopped for an extended time and/or that there were problems with transport between Haifa and other locales. An easy way of spotting these cases is by examining taxed mail, because the taxation flags alleged errors and problems which distinguish these items from the norm.


For instance, there is an unusually large amount of mail handled in Haifa during the Israeli postal administration still franked with Mandate or interim stamps and processed as late as June and July 1948, and most is taxed postage dues. In Tel Aviv by contrast it’s extremely rare to see a Mandate franked cover handled by the Israeli postal administration, and of the covers still bearing interim stamps the majority were processed there around the start of the Israeli postal administration, on 16 May, and so most passed through the mails untaxed (these stamps were valid until 22 May inclusive). This would suggest that the mail in Tel Aviv was processed in a timely, regular manner whereas in Haifa the processing was tardy. This is especially marked as most of this mail in Haifa bears the un-numbered Israeli trilingual postmark of the head post office – as would be expected of mail from letter boxes being processed at the sorting office; it’s unusual to see a period taxed cover in Haifa from one of the [numbered] branch offices, i.e. a real-time instance of mail being processed and then taxed.


My suspicion is that in Haifa the HPO stopped collecting mail from the city’s letter boxes as early as the Mandate period, judging by the abundance of taxed mail bearing [presumed] demonetized franking. The examples that easily arouse this suspicion are those bearing Mandate franks and processed after the establishment of the State, especially when the cancellation marks are those of the HPO (as expected for mail processed from letter boxes) and the space of time between the mail being postmarked and then being taxed is as short as 1 day or less. Consider these examples (TAS #44-321 & #43-441):



These are two out of a series of Shell Oil Company covers, hand-numbered in the #40s to #50 – all franked at the printed matter rate, all using Mandate stamps, and all processed in late May – the 24th and 31st. They are mostly cancelled with an “Alef” indexed un-numbered HPO device on one of those dates and then taxed later that same day with a “Bet” indexed un-numbered HPO device. These covers and others like them were not deliberately franked 10+ days after independence (14 May) with [supremely unpatriotic] stamps that had stopped being sold over the counter 12 days (and 2 postal administrations) prior, 2 and 5 May – especially not an international firm like Shell. These were deposited into letter boxes sometime prior to the interim Minhelet Haam postal administration in the city and were not duly processed by a mail collection function. To “cover up” the mismanagement (however justified it may have been), the covers were treated as contemporary invalidly-franked mail and taxed as if a misdemeanor had been committed by the sender.


The cession of mail collection from letter-boxes was not a unique occurrence in the late Mandate era - here is a press report from January 1948 about mail in Jerusalem not being collected from the boxes for several days (and regular mail service being restricted to just express or registered mail):



Just above (TAS #46-187) we have solid proof of the non-collection and non-processing of mail from the Haifa letter boxes: a cover purportedly postmarked on 30 May 1948 with a demonetized interim frank, and taxed in Tel Aviv on 2 June – except that the sender patriotically addressed the cover to a correspondent in “Eretz Israel” (‘Land of Israel’) - the popular name for Israel before the establishment of the State, which letter-writers would subsequently address as “Medinat Israel”, indicating that he posted it before Israel’s independence was declared on 14 May. The cover was likely entered into a letter box – and then left unprocessed for 3 weeks, only to be disingenuously flagged by the Haifa HPO for postage due and taxed thereafter by the unsuspecting Tel Aviv HPO.


We can also see indications of work overload and logistical constraints on the Haifa HPO: instances of incoming mail with franking that was valid at the time of dispatch being taxed well after those franks were demonetized, one or two postal administrations later. We cannot of course rule out the deliberate use of invalid franks, but their preponderance specifically in Haifa suggests that they were legitimately posted but processed much later:



On the left (TAS #46-183) we see an Afula originating cover to Haifa franked with a Mandate stamp: this was properly used and cancelled during the interim period by the local device – but the cover was subsequently taxed in Haifa on 23 May – 10 days after the stamp was demonetized (i.e. the latest possible date for the combination of the frank and interim cancel), and the transit time between these two northern cities was not more than a day…


On the right (TAS #43-442) we have solid evidence of workload or logistical problems at the Haifa HPO: a properly franked and postmarked Mandate-era cover from the Tel Aviv HPO (Mandate stamp tied by the double circle postmark of the HPO’s public counter, whose last possible day of use was 5 May) – invalidated and taxed by the Haifa HPO some 2+ weeks later, on 20 May.



Just above (TAS #47-349) we have a stunning instance of mail handed into the counter on 10 April, during the Mandate, properly franked and cancelled - without any indications there was an attempted delivery (like a ladder cachet) in the intervening time - and taxed almost 2 months later due to the now demonetized stamp.


Similarly, the referenced Tel Aviv to Safed cover (TAS #39-80 – reverse unillustrated), mentioned above in regard to the initially lacking Haifa transit marking, was posted 13 May – 2 days after the liberation of Safed and the end of the siege – yet reached Rosh Pinna in transit only on 4 June(!) By then the return journey via Haifa was much faster, with the Haifa transit being stamped on 7 June, and Tel Aviv return-arrival the following day…


As we see, there was a significant disruption to postal work handled by the Haifa HPO and a marked absence of [Mandate] postal markings attesting to sorting or transit of mail, from at least mid-April 1948. Now we’re in a better position to understand why the Nahariya mail destined for Tel Aviv was not cancelled by the Haifa sorting office.


Tying a Loose End – and Learning About Multiple Postmark Devices

NEVERTHELESS astute observers may take issue with the examples I put forward of mail handled by the newly installed Israeli postal administration in Haifa – on the surface a trivial point, but critical nonetheless to allaying concerns and also learning something new about the Israeli processing of mail in Haifa: it may seem that my displayed examples are mixing instances of Israeli administered mail being postmarked on the spot at the public counters with mail being belatedly processed (and taxed) by the sorting office - after all during the Mandate each function had its own postmark devices, and here all the covers bear the same un-numbered “dot” trilingual postmark of the HPO… or do they?


From postmark strikes I’ve observed specifically in Haifa I’ve noticed subtle differences between postmarks of the same type, for instance with the un-numbered issue assigned to the HPO.


According to Ben-Zion Fixler & Yehuda Nachtigal (and others) these trilingual cancellers were composed of two parts: the body, made of steel, included the name of the locality in Hebrew, English and Arabic; specifically the original “type A” issue of 1948-51 separately bore the Hebrew and Latin dates plus the shift index letter on 3 lines – cast as slugs. The two datelines were supplied in advance for a full month, for each postmark, and were changed daily by the postal clerk. Only with the introduction of the “type C” postmarks, in Dec. 1950, were the post offices issued actual kits with letters and digits for assembling the necessary dates (references: Ben-Zion Fixler & Yehuda Nachtigal ‘Regular Postmarks of Israeli Post, Part 1’, p.3/110 + Glassman 1978 p.48-49 + Yirmiyahu Rimon in Holy Land Postal History bulletin #17-18 p.870).


Although the notion of how the date slugs were made and supplied sounds preposterous and uneconomical, at the height of an existential war of independence with fuel being in short supply, I imagine these research sources have on what to base their findings - and this in fact assists us in solving the issue of how a single canceller could seemingly be used in multiple departments. By extension of their research, this means that each letter and character of the slug was unadjustable, and fixed in its place. In other words whatever quirk one may observe on a clear strike of a trilingual in one place, one must necessarily see on all other strikes by it elsewhere - unless more than one device of that type exists, and this is what I am proposing: there were multiple copies of these devices at least at the Haifa HPO, serving various functions and departments, and this is why we may observe the un-numbered type struck on both public counter and sorting office covers.


Consider the strikes we see here, some from the first day of the HPO’s operation under the Israeli postal administration, on 16 May 1948, and some from subsequent weeks later. No source until now has acknowledged the use of multiple devices of the same type at the Haifa HPO.



As we learned above the two sets of date slugs were ‘hardcoded’, and along with the index letter, these could be inserted and changed: on the single day of 16 May 1948 just from the “Alef” shift (per the index letter) we see multiple strikes where the Hebrew letter “Zayin” in the date (for 16 May) looks more like a “Daled” (13 May) or cases where the final Hebrew letter “Hey” in the year is missing – and in each case the ordering of the slugs is different. That same day during the “Bet” shift we also observe variations in the template of the canceller itself by way of the appearance of the Hebrew letter “Pay” in HAIFA and the spacing of the English letters for the city name. On subsequent dates we see further variations in lettering and spacing.


With all these examples from a very narrow period of time we see conclusively that various devices existed of the HPO’s un-numbered ‘dot’ canceller, and this is why we may see – at a passing glance – seemingly identical cancellation devices serving both public-counter and back-office processing work.


Tying Everything Together

By now we’ve understood a number of things: postal operations at the Haifa HPO in the final weeks of the Mandate were severely curtailed, certain types of postal markings stopped being used and possibly even whole postal functions ceased being handled; during the Israeli postal administration it appears that much backlogged work was processed and that the same-looking cancelling device was used for various functions (public counters, sorting work, taxation, etc.).


But is there a way we can definitely link everything together and arrive at the conclusion that taxis were employed as part of the postal administration? Actually, yes – and here I saved the proof for the end in order to take the reader first through this investigative journey.


A Remarkable Instance of Limited Postal Facilities

Firstly, I will share with you a remarkable facet of a fairly well-known story about interim era sea mail: some philatelists know that there was a Jewish/Israeli ship – the first such - called the SS Kedma, which among its various tasks, also carried mail to and from pre-State Israel. That ship arrived in Haifa from Marseille on Saturday 1 May - with a consignment of mail and departed 6 May with “the last mail from Palestine under official Mandate auspicies” (according to Shamir & Siegel in “Israel Foreign Postal Links”, p.23).


The local press between 3-5 May published a series of conflicting accounts about another [French] ship called “Providence”, coming in to Haifa also from Marseille with between 90-99 sacks of mail; that ship reportedly docked on 27 April but around 1 May it seems that no representative of the Haifa HPO had come in response to inquiries to accept the mail. One report (‘Davar’ of 3 May p.3 – article on the right) says the consignment was to be returned to France and that it continued to be carried onboard until the ship docked in Tel Aviv, where it was unloaded and transferred to the HPO there; another report (‘HaTzofe’ of 4 May p.1 – article on the left), referring to ‘Tohu Vavohu’ chaos government in its title, writes that the Haifa postal administrator “for whatever reason refused” to accept the mail and a special arrangement between the shipping agency in Tel Aviv and the ship’s captain enabled the mail to be unloaded at Haifa port and transported to the Tel Aviv HPO on the 4th for sorting and distribution. This latter report may be more updated than the earlier one as it contains more specific information about the mail transfer.



In any case the local press portrayed the administrator as being motivated by anti-Zionism. Whether or not that was the reason I believe a shared element to the administrator’s lack of response was that his facility simply lacked the ability to process the mail, and this had to be transferred for treatment elsewhere. IFPL p.28 illustrates a registered cover from Romania to Haifa backstamped by the Haifa HPO’s oval REGISTERED postmark dated 3 May 1948 (the day before the transfer of the mail from “Providence” to Tel Aviv) – proving that the HPO, still under Mandate control, had accepted mail at least from the ‘Kedma’, and that the consignment from the ‘Providence’ may simply have been too much for the facility to handle at the time.



In any case it’s unlikely that the outward motive was political as the Mandate postal service, which still existed nationwide until the 2nd, and then only at the HPOs until the 5th, was not outwardly a politically motivated body – its administrators were not free to decide when or under what circumstance to accept and process mail. Here for instance, the mail was merely transferred from one HPO jurisdiction (Haifa) to another (Tel Aviv) – still while the HPOs were under Mandate auspicies. Furthermore if there was a legal basis to refuse the mail other agencies of the Mandate government would have been involved, such as customs or the police.


In the event, the mail from “Providence” was indeed processed in Tel Aviv but ironically none of the mail I’ve observed bears its sorting office or other transit-arrival mark – only the interim postmark of the post office of arrival.


Independently of researching mail for clues, having illustrated very concretely that the Haifa HPO visibly lacked the ability to not just process mail but even to receive it, how can we connect the Tel Aviv postmarked mail with taxi services?


Finding Documentary Proof of Taxi Involvement with Mail Transport

Ironically the annals of Mandate postal history are replete with references to taxi companies being contracted to transport mail, with cases seen from as early as Nov. 1922 (Official Gazette OETA South #78 p.9) through to at least 1946, involving various companies including Taxi Kesher itelf:



For the general public this was a subtle distinction: under contract, carrying fully pre-paid mail handed over by the postal service - taxi transported mail was legal; privately hired and carried [un-franked] mail with fees paid directly to the taxi companies, on the other hand, was illegal.


We have then about 3 different types of taxi mail: the initial kind we saw above, at the start of the article, of privately hired service indicated by a stampless cover bearing a dispatch label from the taxi service; the headlined postage-paid cover with an actual taxi routing request; and now mail officially contracted by the postal service for delivery by taxi. How do we identify that last type? Below is a good example: a registered cover addressed to the Jewish Agency in Jerusalem, posted from the Hadar HaCarmel branch office in Haifa on 30 May 1943; it managed to get processed at the head post office that same day and still received at Jerusalem later in the day – bypassing Tel Aviv; remarkably swift transit effected by the use of taxis (see the middle press clipping above about "accelerated mail service", from 7 Sept. 1939, for reference).



Nevertheless researchers have not seen a phenomenon of mail from one region of the country being sorted at that region’s head post office but then postmarked by the HPO of the region servicing the destination address. If our inquiry is to find a connection between an actual taxi routing on mail and the unusual postmarking of mail in some other location – can we find a documentary link to connect the two issues?


Here we are aided by an extraordinary press report which I’ve found only in one source – buried on page 9 of the newspaper ‘Al HaMishmar’ of 7 May 1948: it’s titled “Information Bureau for the Western Galilee” and proceeds to report that an information bureau for the western Galilee and Nahariya is located in the office of “Taxi Kesher” on Herzl Street, in the Hadar HaCarmel neighborhood of Haifa. At the office one can obtain bus passes and information on all issues pertaining to transport, the transport of mail, newspapers and small packages. From now all dispatches of newspapers and mail will be concentrated at “Kesher” and all interested parties will be able to visit it between the hours of 6am and 730pm daily. Prices for dispatches are set by a coalition-wide (company-wide?) committee. Information on these matters is available at all offices of “Kesher” nationwide.



Here then we see a direct – and public - connection between the postal service and the Taxi Kesher company. We don’t know who contracted them - the Haifa HPO or the postmaster general; the Mandate postal service or the interim administration - or under what circumstance the two bodies worked together, but the press report clearly shows that official mail service was being run through Taxi Kesher’s Haifa office. And since we observe the odd phenomenon of Tel Aviv bound mail from the north being postmarked there at Tel Aviv from around 23 April onwards, for at least 2 weeks, it may be that this arrangement with Taxi Kesher - which was not presented in the report of 7 May as something “new” – was pre-existing from around mid-late April. As such, we can now better appreciate why a member of the public would have known to indicate “via Taxi Kesher” on mail he deposited at the post office.


UPDATE (14 Nov. 2021): since uploading this article I've been shown an extraordinary Nahariya emergency mail cover by Dr. Phil Kass (CA, USA) - posted 19 April 1948 and postmarked at the Haifa HPO on 21 April (the day of the Jewish military operation to capture the city): the sender addressed the cover to Taxi Kesher Service at Herzl Street - and specified "poste restante" mail handling for the intended addressee, a Josef Finzi*. We see from this that indeed the public knew as early as 19 April (and likely before then) - during the Mandate postal administration - that mail could be addressed to Taxi Kesher's Haifa office, and even be given postal treatment, here to hold the mail at their premises until the addressee arrived to collect it(!) As such, the postal service's work arrangements with Taxi Kesher must have been established during the Mandate administration. The salient difference between this cover and the headlined cover in this article is that here the handling request is part of the address (i.e. the post office merely sends the prepaid cover to that address and whatever is desired thereafter is done there at the address); the headlined cover actually 'told' the post office to have the mail transported by Taxi Kesher. A subtle but meaningful difference, possibly suggesting that initially the postal work at Taxi Kesher was 'passive' and unknown to the Mandate services, whereas thereafter it was overt and so later publicized in the press.


* [FOOTNOTE]: I haven't found a connection between the Josef Finzi addressed on this cover and the Shaul Finzi that the specialist literature mentions in regard to posting the original consignment of the Nahariya emergency mail. What I did find however was a startling tribute to a "Capt. Shaul (Paul) Finzi (Zioni)" (1913-1950), who most likely is the one referred to: born in Czechoslovakia and immigrated to Palestine in 1939, drafted into the artillery corps in May 1949; a gold-medal awarded stamp collector who also collected ancient coins (and whose collection attracted the attention of the Chief of Staff turned archeologist, Prof. Yigal Yadin [Sukenik]); killed in an ambush on the road to Eilat (6 Dec. 1950); initially interred in Nahariya and later reinterred (1951) at the military cemetary at Mount Herzl. He left behind a wife and two daughters. See here and here for his official memorials; and here for his mention in connection to the 'Skirmish at Kilometer 78'. What this also means is that the cited narrative above whereby the initial consignment of mail of handed to Finzi for posting - something which I couldn't see confirmed by the actual mail -  is not a first-hand account, but rather passed down through others - again highlighting the problem with relying on personal 'recollections' for documenting postal history...


Ironically the connection between this report and the routing request on our headline cover opens the door to a larger issue, the broader use of external transport services to augment the mail service. On the one hand we have seen documented cases of taxi companies contracted to transport mail, while on the other we have seen those same companies fined for carrying mail (without contract) – the Mandate’s overt use of external transport services was very specific and pinpointed. Nevertheless, in the final period of the Mandate it may have been much more widespread: one clue to this phenomenon may be found in the April 1948 edition of the Mandate’s “Palestine Post Office Guide”, where in the section on Express Mail, the Postal Service subtly included mention of the use of external transport services – something that the public had been clamoring for, for years (see the letter from a newspaper reader from 1943, below):



As with the PEDI transatlantic airmail service mentioned above, the Mandate postal service appears to have finally accepted the idea that 3rd party transport of mail by its sender could be legalized – provided the postage for the mail was fully paid. Past publication of the express service had never mentioned the sender’s ability to use of taxis or “other special conveyance”, but now this was discreetly included. Here, this was not limited just to Haifa but to the country nationwide.


Even so, we can see indications of strain on the Haifa head post office well into 1948, after the establishment of the State: a 16 Sept. 1948 report in ‘Haaretz’ (pg.2) about the loss of mail bags in transit between Haifa and Hadera due to a fire caused by a lit cigarette butt, mentions that these bags were being carried on an Egged bus cooperative public transport vehicle (probably a bus). And that’s not all:


“And Now You Know… the Rest of the Story” (Paul Harvey)

The purpose of this article was to share new information but its approach was deliberately one of investigation and critical thinking. The following information came to light as I was completing this article and I saved it for the end in order to demonstrate that what we saw and learned till now is indeed based on actual events:


A retrospective piece on the Haifa head post office, published in late December 1948 ("The Haifa Head Post Office Moves to Kingsway" in 'Haaretz' of 27 Dec. 1948 p.3), still during the War of Independence, reveals surprising information re-affirming the premise of and observations made in this article. The report refers to the Israeli postal administrator in Haifa, Zvi Barkoni, summarizing the difficulties that the Haifa post office faced since the start of the War (29 Nov. 1947), and among the issues he raised are that:

  • on 20 April 1948 a specific order was given to return mail bags back to their countries of dispatch (Barkoni does not say who gave the order or why – but the sudden evacuation of British forces in Haifa beginning on the 18th and the security situation leading to the Jewish military operation to capture the city on the 21st may have influenced the decision; as a researcher I’m not predisposed to see ‘anti-Zionism’ in everything the Mandate did);
  • on 1 May all domestic mail service was supposed to stop but the Jewish workers did not adhere to these orders and did their best to continue delivering mail (this order was independent of the scheduled arrangement of transferring the HPOs to the interim administration on 6 May, and unclear why given);
  • of 405 postal employees at the HPO by the end of the Mandate, only 113 were Jews; of the 17 top-level postal officials only 4 were Jews, of whom 2 were transferred to postal branches “in order that they not consolidate key positions at the head post office”, according to Barkoni;
  • 800 bags of mail from overseas accumulated at the HPO between 25 April and 1 May, and these were opened against instructions, sorted and delivered;
  • in the meantime scores of the Jewish employees were drafted into the army and new employees hired in their place were not yet trained enough.

The article also mentions that a direct postal service between Haifa and Jerusalem had since been effected by way using a vehicle of the "Palestine Post" newspaper – outside assistance to help the post office fulfill its duties. The article also reveals that the Haifa postal service is under-staffed at 245 employees versus the slated 370 positions requiring workers; that many are hurriedly employed and many others are still on military duty; that 31 of 46 postmen are new; that there are only 7 telegraphists versus 43 as during the Mandate; that many employees are new immigrants lacking proficient Hebrew; and that both vehicles and drivers are lacking.



Here we have then the more or less complete picture of what occurred in Haifa between mid-April and mid-May 1948, why it was possible for mail to have been partially processed there (or not at all) - and why it was possible for mail to have been transported by taxi and processed elsewhere, like Tel Aviv.


The Last Word?

This article originated from a single known instance of taxi routing being specified on a piece of mail sent from Haifa to Tel Aviv; it further examined many instances of mail from northern Palestine being sorted at Haifa but postmarked in Tel Aviv. Nevertheless, was an inverse situation possible – Tel Aviv originating mail being postmarked instead at Haifa? Below we have a curious case of mail sent from the newspaper ‘Haaretz’ in Tel Aviv to its Haifa branch’s post office box in that city – but postmarked there in Haifa. As per the ‘split ovals’ dateless interim postmark we know this cover was postmarked sometime between 10-14 May 1948; as there are no signs that the cover was prepared for registry, the franking is likely quadruple letter weight (10m base fee + 3x 6m extra weight = 28m for a total of 120 grams, with 2m overpaid).



Students of the postal history of this period will likely be familiar with the concept of franked “couriered mail” sent between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem (and vice versa) and postmarked in the city of destination, and such covers are usually folded (vertically) to be carried in a pocket – but this phenomenon is unknown along the Tel Aviv-Haifa route. Although we discussed reasons why there could have been logistical problems along that route in April-May 1948, I have not observed “couriered mail” between these cities in this period. For a business as large and powerful as a newspaper like ‘Haaretz’ it’s unlikely that the paper paid postage and then dispatched someone to merely deposit the cover at the Haifa head post office. With such an undertaking along that dangerous route it would have been more sensible to deliver the cover to the final address altogether. Indeed the paper could also have privately ordered a taxi to transport it as ‘taxi mail’ – and we’ve seen such instances in our examination of Nahariya emergency mail, above. Here I am proposing that the taxis which carried mail southwards to Tel Aviv were probably used to take bagged mail northwards on their return journey – although I haven’t seen other covers like this.