Food rationing & passports - Our Passports
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  • Austerity in Israel
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  • Austerity in Israel
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Food rationing & passports

Shortages in Israel – 1950’s.


During Israel’s first 10-11 years there was a severe shortage of basic and necessary material. Also, the population has grown immensely due to immigration, and with the shortage of foreign currency as well, due to the struggles of a new young nation, all this led the provisional and fixed governments-to-come later on to impose a rationing system throughout the country. This was done in order to make sure that all citizens received equally the amount of basic food and other needed goods, such as clothing. Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion, ordered the establishment of a government ministry to handle the matters of rationing, which was called: “Ministry of Rationing and Supply”. A system of booklet s with coupons was introduced and every family head had to ensure that the weekly or monthly coupons were spent and used or returned to shop vendors accordingly.


Today, when speaking to our grandparents and parents, when they were growing up back then, they all remember the hardships. To them, it was called “TZENA” (austerity).


Austerity in Israel


Rationing and Supply Minister of Israel


Long queues to grocery stores and government-coupon outlets were seen in every major city, something that reminds us of the Eastern Block back in the Cold War days.


The ministry would send out, to be publicly hanged on the entrance of groceries and stores, the list of goods and their rationing for the time, the points needed and what type of coupons were valid or cancelled for the exchange.


Thus, with every new immigrant also arriving to the country, or be it soldiers, men who did hard physical labor and pregnant women, rationing was given according to your status as well. The shortage was very severe at times, and so when anyone was leaving the country, short or long trip alike, had to hand in to the authorities his vouchers and booklets, which he would receive new ones upon his or her return, and had is passport stamped indicating this. It is here that we can make the connection between travel documents and the “austerity”.


The holder of this Israeli travel document (Israel did not issue formal passports until the end of 1952, following the Citizenship Law of that year; and all travel documents issued from the end of 1948 and for the next 4 years were Laissez-Passer), owner of a large publishing firm in Israel called Yavne, left Israel for a brief visit to Europe, he was handed a notice, when applying for the exit visa, indicating that his passport would be stamped upon handing-in his ration booklets, when leaving  the country, and this was done, as we can see in the small boxed-stamp on page 7:

Supply and Rationing office – Food department – Rationing certificates returned“.


Today, the country is a strong and viable developed modern nation, and no shortages are seen anywhere. When one looks at the rationing system that was here 60 years ago, for example, small chocolate bar of 56gr per week, I cannot imagine how little kids could enjoy life without those special little sweet treats that are abundant today.


Added sample images of a 1950 issued laissez-passer and the boxed-stamp on page 7, together with the special notice and a 1956 food-poster indicating rations and coupons system that was taken off the door of a grocery shop in central Israel, small town called Kfar Saba.

(Some of the mentioned food that was under strict rationing control include: coffee, tea, milk chocolate, cocoa powder, jam, meat, fish and more)


The source for the smaller image is Wikipedia and it depicts a line of consumers in Tel Aviv, 1954.




Thank you for reading “Our Passports”.









Neil Kaplan
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