This is a Shana Tova card from the 1960s with a colourful drawing of a village in the Galilee. A group of white houses with red tile roofs are nestled in between fertile ground in the front and green fields in the back. The houses are surrounded by green trees, and mountains can be seen in the distance. The word “Galilee” is written in Hebrew at the bottom of the card, and a New Year greeting is written at the top. This is an example of Shana Tova cards with idyllic, pastoral scenes of Israel.
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Galilee – The Galilee is a region in northern Israel. The borders of the Galilee region are: in the north – the Litani River; in the south – the Jezreel Valley and the Harod Valley; in the east – the Jordan River; and in the west – the Mediterranean Sea. The area is a mountainous system surrounded by plains and valleys. Temperatures are relatively low and rainfall is high, which makes it conducive to plants and animals. The area is on the migratory path for many birds and is also known for its diverse fauna and flora. The Galilee was home to the biblical tribes of Dan and Naphtali. Under Roman and later Byzantine rule, the Galilee was far away from the government centres. For this reason, it was the home of many important tanaim (Talmudic sages), many of whom are buried in the Galilee. This was also thought to be the home of Jesus and his followers. In the following centuries, the Galilee was under the rule of the Romans, the Arab caliphate, the Ottomans, and finally the British Mandate. The Jewish population of the area was centred in Safed (Tsfat), and at the end of the nineteenth century and beginning of the twentieth century, many pioneers settled in the Galilee, founding many towns, kibbutzim, and moshavim. The Galilee is also home to a large Arab population, mostly Muslim but also Druze and Christians.
Shana Tova Cards - The earliest instance of a written “shana tova” greeting is a fourteenth-century letter written by the Ashkenazi rabbi known as the Maharil (Jacob ben Moses Moelin). This letter affirms the existence of this custom in German Jewish communities at the time. In the eighteenth century, the custom began spreading beyond the German-speaking realm to other large concentrations of Jews in Eastern Europe, especially Poland. By the end of the century, Shana Tova cards began to take on distinct characteristics, such as special writing paper, with the custom spreading throughout the entire Ashkenazi world during the nineteenth century. The postal service emerged around this time, and in the 1880s, Jewish entrepreneurs began to print commercial greeting Shana Tova cards. By this time, Shana Tova cards constituted the main body of postcards sent by Jews, and this would remain so for around 100 years.
Between the end of the nineteenth century and the end of First World War, a time known as the “Golden Age of Postcards,” the vast majority of the mail sent by Jews in Europe and America consisted of Shana Tova cards. Today, in the digital era, cards sent by post have given way to text messages and emails.