Israel stamps its mark: Winning gold in Indonesia

Dr. Les Glassman (left), with Yigal Nathaniel and R. Soeyono, president of the Indonesian Philatelists Association. (photo credit: LES GLASSMAN)
Dr. Les Glassman (left), with Yigal Nathaniel and R. Soeyono, president of the Indonesian Philatelists Association.
(photo credit: LES GLASSMAN)
It was a great honor to represent Israel at the World Stamp Exhibition held at the Trans Studio Convention Center in Bandung, Indonesia, in August, under the patronage of the Federation International de Philatelie (FIP) and under the auspices of the Federation of Inter Asian Philately, with the support of Pos Indonesia and the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology.
The primary aim of the World Stamp Exhibition is to promote friendly relations and maintain close cooperation among philatelists and stamp collectors around the world. An official invitation to Israel was extended to the Israeli Philatelic Federation, even though Indonesia – the world’s most populous Muslim country with over 260 million people – does not have diplomatic relations with Israel.
I was invited to be the official Israeli commissioner, but my wife and I had to enter the country on our South African passports. Yigal Nathaniel, an Israeli philatelic judge and board director of the FIP who does not have a foreign passport, managed to obtain special visas for himself and his wife after three months of uncertainty.
Their visas miraculously arrived a few hours before their departure. Still, in the official exhibition catalogue and website, the Indonesian Organizing Committee placed our pictures under the heading “Israel” and we were formally introduced as the judge and commissioner from Israel.
Bandung 2017 was a philatelic tribute celebrating the 72nd anniversary of Indonesian independence, the 72nd anniversary of the West Java Province and the 207th anniversary of the city of Bandung. The third largest city in the country, the picturesque and bustling capital of West Java has over two and a half million inhabitants.
The event attracted delegates, collectors and enthusiasts, featuring 457 exhibits on 1,919 frames. There were 32 international dealers and postal operators, and 24 local traders. One of the unique qualities of the gathering was its inclusive nature. Representatives from over 70 countries were made to feel part of the family of nations.
Stamps know no boundaries. They cross oceans and seas throughout the world.
The theme of Bandung 2017, “Philately – Bridge to Friendship between Nations,” was therefore most appropriate. I felt this bridge on many levels. Despite a warning by an official at passport control in Singapore not to wear my kippa when entering the country, my fears were allayed when we were warmly welcomed by officials from the Indonesian Philatelic Association.
After wearing my cap for just a few minutes to hide my kippa, to our surprise, everyone we came into contact with made us feel very welcome and comfortable. Most had never met an Israeli, nor seen anyone wearing a kippa. They were fascinated and curious to learn more about the Holy Land.
All the other commissioners and judges, without exception, received us well. I had many opportunities to mingle and socialize with representatives of Arab and Muslim countries, and even North Korea! At the Palmares Award ceremony, which was a very lavish event, when I rose to accept my award, I received loud applause. The jury awarded Israel two gold medals as well as large vermeil and silver medals.
The Indonesian Federation accepted all of Israel’s entries, including the literature display of Megilat Esther, “These are the days of Purim,” which was compiled by the Israeli Philatelic Federation, as well as “The Road to Jerusalem.” The Israel Philatelic Federation donated a special prize, a silver model of Jerusalem, which was awarded to a Japanese exhibitor.
The wide array of commissioners, judges and representatives from across the globe became like a family of nations, built on common interest for the love of philately, united in their acceptance of diverse cultures, nationalities, races and religions. By interacting not only on a professional but also on a personal level, new acquaintances and genuine friendships were made.
The highlight for me personally was handing out Israeli stamps donated by the Israel Philatelic Federation to the many schoolchildren and teenagers attending the event. The joy on their faces when they received an envelope with a stamp and message from Israel is something I will never forget. It was like I had given them all gold! To the Organizing Committee of Bandung 2017, words cannot express my sincere appreciation for a wonderful and successful exhibition, which I will always remember with fondness. Thank you very much – Terima Kasih Banyak!
Dr. Les Glassman, a Jerusalem dentist, is Israel’s Philatelic Commissioner