WWI in Eretz Israel Centenary - The Military Railway (1915) SI

WWI in Eretz Israel Centenary - The Military Railway (1915)

In October 1914, a few months after the outbreak of WWI, the Ottoman Empire aligned itself with Germany and Austria against the allied nations (Britain, France and Russia). The Great War, as it was called at the time, lasted for more than four years and fundamentally changed the history of the world, including the situation of Eretz Israel.

The terrible living conditions did great harm to the Jewish Yishuv in Eretz Israel during the course of the war. Thousands of Jews who were foreign nationals were expelled as subjects of enemy nations. Many others, who depended upon contributions that could no longer be received from Jewish communities outside Eretz Israel were left penniless and starving. If not for financial aid and food sent by Jews from the neutral United States, the Yishuv would probably have been destroyed altogether.

While some members of the Jewish Yishuv wanted to help the British conquer Eretz Israel, there were those who called on the Jews to accept Ottoman citizenship and assist the Ottoman Empire's war efforts. The stamp features a portrait of Moshe Shertok (later Moshe Sharett, second Prime Minister of Israel), who volunteered in the Turkish army and served as an officer on the Balkan front.

Encouraged by Kress von Kressenstein, a German military staff officer who was sent by the Germans to assist their Turkish allies, the Ottoman army initiated a campaign to conquer the Suez Canal in early 1915. On February 3, 1915, after a difficult campaign across the Sinai Peninsula, Turkish forces attacked the British troops stationed at the Suez Canal, but the attack failed and the Turks were forced to retreat back into Eretz Israel.

Despite this failure, the Turks decided to prepare for another attack. They positioned a large force along the southern front facing the Sinai Desert and routed most of Eretz Israel's resources toward the war effort. Tens of thousands of men were recruited as soldiers and workers in the labor corps, heavy taxes were imposed upon residents, crops and animals were seized for military use and the forests of Eretz Israel were cut down in order to fuel train engines.

The Turks invested great efforts into laying railroad tracks for the military railroad, which was meant to transport supplies to the many soldiers stationed in Southern Israel. German engineer Heinrich Meissner, who had planned the Hijaz Railway before the war, was appointed to plan this railway as well. The new line connected to the track that led south from the Afula Station toward Nablus and turned west toward Tul Karem. From there the line turned south toward Lod, Wadi Zarar (Sorek River), Fallujah 

(Plugot Junction) and Beer Sheva. The Beer Sheva station was inaugurated In October 1915 and that is where the Turkish army's logistics center for the southern part of the country was established. The stamp also features an image of a Turkish military train standing in the Beer Sheva station.

Building the military railway was the Turks' most significant undertaking in Eretz Israel in 1915. This line had an impact on the railroad infrastructure in later years. Sections of the Turkish route were utilized during the British Mandate and continue to serve the Israel Railways Company today.

In 1916 the Turks continued to build the railway into the Sinai Peninsula, but work was halted in May 1916, as British troops advanced from Egypt. The British army only reached the boarders of Eretz Israel at the beginning of 1917 and many months passed before the British penetrated this front.

The First Day Cover features the monument that was erected in Beer Sheva to commemorate the Turkish soldiers, against the background of a British military map demonstrating troop movements during the conquest of Beer Sheva in October 1917.

Description of the Stamp
and the First Day Cover
The stamp features a Turkish train in the Beer Sheva station –Library of Congress; Moshe Shertok in Turkish military uniform – Yad Ben-Zvi, Jerusalem. The stamp tab features a Turkish military uniform belt buckle.
The First Day Cover – a map of Beer Sheva – National Library, Jerusalem.
The Turkish Soldiers' Monument in Beer Sheva – Moshe Rimer.

This stamp is planned to be the first in a four-stamp series that will be issued annually. 

Technical Details

Issue Date: 16.06.2015
Printer: Cartor Security Printing, France
Process: Offset
Colours: 4 Colours
Size: 30 x 40 mm