It was a great honor and privilege to represent Israel at the World Stamp Championship held at the Jakarta International Expo Arena JIEXPO in August.
The event was organized by the Indonesian Philatelists Association, which celebrates its centenary this year while Indonesia celebrates the 75th anniversary of its independence.
At the opening ceremony, I had the honor to be introduced to Dr. Fadli Zon, president of the Indonesian Philatelic Association and a member of the Indonesian Parliament. I was wearing my kippa when he welcomed me, and he asked if I knew various members of the Knesset whom he had previously met.
Indonesia 2022 was essentially a world stamp championship exhibition, under the patronage of the Federation International de Philatelie and the auspices of the Federation of Inter Asian Philately.
Indonesia has no relations with Israel
An official invitation to Israel was extended to my wife and me, even though Indonesia – the world’s most populous Muslim country with a population of over 275 million – does not have diplomatic relations with Israel. We had to enter the country on our South African passports, but as Israeli Philatelic commissioner, I was invited to be the official Israeli representative.
In the bulletin, catalog and website, my picture appears under “Israel,” and I was formally introduced as the commissioner from Israel.
One of the qualities of the World Stamp Championship is its inclusive nature, in which representatives from more than 60 countries were made to feel part of a family of nations. The specialized championship was originally initiated with the aim of fostering friendship and cooperation among philatelists worldwide, and promoting philately at the highest international level.
I brought seven exhibits from philatelists all over Israel. The exhibits were varied and included Verses of the Bible, Intelligence Services, Tour of Jerusalem, Old Letters from Jerusalem, Israeli POW Mail, and Postal Labels of Israel.
This is the first time that Israeli-themed exhibits were shown in Indonesia. I really did not know what to expect and how the exhibits would be received, but my fears were allayed when many schoolchildren and their teachers approached my wife and me and asked if they could take photos and videos and even interview us.
We were asked if we could explain the Tour of Jerusalem exhibit at which the children had marveled. The exhibit belonging to Paulo Duek comprised 80 pages of postcards and stamps depicting the history of Jerusalem and highlighting the three monotheist religions – Judaism, Islam and Christianity – and showcasing the old city and modern Jerusalem.
The children were fascinated to see stamps and postcards of the Dome of the Rock. For many people, Jerusalem is considered the center of the universe, and according to several sources Jerusalem means city of peace. For many Indonesians unfortunately, their only view of Jerusalem is one of violence that is portrayed via the media. But now they were exposed to picture postcards and stamps of Arabs, Jews and Christians mingling together, whether it be at Mahaneh Yehuda market or the Arab shuk.
There were beautiful views of the different neighborhoods, historic monuments and buildings, arts and culture from the different world-class museums, sports and culture, and the magnificent and breathtaking views of the city, but the highlight for my wife and I was when I showed stamps and postcards of Jerusalem blanketed in snow. They were delighted because they had never seen snow before. We were overwhelmed with the questions the children had asked about Jerusalem, and their genuine desire to one day visit the Holy City.
Although this exhibit did not receive a gold medal at the award ceremony, which was held at the Indonesian Parliament building, the exhibit melted everyone’s heart. The warmth and hospitality we received will be fondly remembered.
Participating in the World Stamp Exhibition in Indonesia was a unique opportunity to bridge the world of peace through stamps. ■
The writer, a dentist who lives in Jerusalem, is the Israeli Philatelic commissioner.