Israel Government Printer 1948 – 1953
Printers of Passports & Travel Documents as well.
The fundamental tool that all governments use in order to print out their official material.
Here are several examples: the US Government Printing Office, British TDLR, German Bundesdruckerei, French Imprimerie Nationale etc., and also Israel has its own official printer: Government Printer (D.M. – ד.מ.)
Israel “inherited” it’s Government Printer (GP) from the terminated British Mandate in 1948. Originally established in an old winery, in what was a German settlement colony called Sharona. The Winery went bankrupt and it turned into a printing press in the 1930’s. The printing press changed hands in the first half of 1948, when Jewish forces, the Haganah, overrun the colony towards the termination of the Mandate, during the war of independence. Its facilities then were used to print entry & exit permits for use at the settlement that has been turned by then into a military camp for the “new” owners: these permits were issued to the remaining British soldiers who were still living or working at the premises. During the interim period, the period between the time the British were leaving and the formation of the State of Israel, the temporary governing body of the would-be-to-come Israeli Government nominated Abraham Ilon to be the head of the future government printer; this nomination was done on March 16th, 1948.
The Mandate Government Printing Press (GPP) was originally situated in Jerusalem, where all the official material (manuals, government bonds and the infamous “White Paper” of 1939) was printed at. When the British left, the Haganah forces on May 18th overran the Printing Press building in what was called Operation Southern Pitchfork. The fighting in the city escalated and the printing press was relocated to a safer location, to the Bezalel art school. But following a Jordanian shell that hit the facility on July 25th, the Jewish forces decided, in order to save the press, to have it transported to safety: All facility machines & paper were transferred via the Burma Road (Israel) (a makeshift pathway that was used by the Israeli forces to transfer into and out of the besieged city of Jerusalem goods and material needed by the civilian population, leading from Kibbutz Hulda) to the location at Sharona, now being called by the Israelis HAKIRYA.
The newly formed State of Israel government printer was headed by Shaul Golan. The official operating date is for May 16th and it fell under supervision of the Prime Minister’s Office. The main facility was located in the Kirya (HAKIRYA), where the main government offices and ministries were also located at during the first years. Most of the government’s official material was printed there: official publications, papers, forms, stamps, bank checks, bonds, bearer bonds, identity papers, certificates, permits, calling cards, university & high school exams and also diplomatic passports. A large vault was even constructed and located at the basement of the printer, with around the clock guarding, an Israeli version of “Fort Knox”.
The Kirya also had independent printers that worked exclusively for the IDF, IAF, and Police.
We can summaries the government printer to include the following:
1948 – Kirya (main): Government Printer;
1948 – Jaffa: Printers of Arabic official material & daily newspapers;
1950 – Jerusalem: Printers of Israeli Parliament (Knesset) material;
1950 – Haifa subcontractor printer;
The Government Printer moved hands from the PM office to the Ministry of Finance on March 1st 1953.
Ten years later most of the facilities were moved back to Jerusalem.
Printing system & passport type used during the first 5 years:
The printing system for official forms and government material can be detected by the coding and fine imprint at the bottom & back of the document, normally we would find the initials D.M. (ד.מ. – דפוס ממשלתי) that stand for “DFUS-MEMSHALTY” (GOVERNMENT PRINTER – G.P.) followed by the form code or specific number, then by the quantity printed and the date (month/year). But this is not the case for travel documents and passports! If one looks closely at the early Israeli travel documents (1948-1952) and the first passports (began to appear at the end of 1952), there is no indication at all of the government printer on the back. I can only assume that this was done for security and secrecy reasons.
I added sample images of Israel’s first travel documents and first passport from the end of 1952.
An important note: Israel did not have an official passport during its first 5 years: from 1948 to 1953 it had a travel document “Au lieu de Passeport National” and three versions appeared:
- End of 1948 to the end of 1949-> first version without the national emblem; (The Israeli national emblem was officially chosen during the first half of 1949)
- End of 1949 to mid-1950-> second version WITH the national emblem;
- Mid-1950 to end of 1952-> third version of the travel document.
List of personnel at the Government Printer during its first years:
- Abraham Ilon – Government Printer;
- Golon – Government Printer department manager;
- Ein-Dor – Head administrative manager;
- Bargor – Printing-press work department manger;
- Finkelshtein – Valuables department manager;
- A. Frankenstein – Accounting department manager;
The first documents were printed on US made quality paper: HAMMERMILL SAFETY; all samples during the first years where printed by using similar or same fonts (see images).
Following the Citizenship Law of 1952 (see also Israeli nationality law), Israel began to print and use official passports at the end of that year and stopped using the Laissez-Passer as a means of travelling. From 1953 everyone began to use passports only, unless they were not entitled to, thus being then issued travel documents or Identity Certificates.
Added here sample images of several early Israeli travel documents issued at the Kirya, and of course printed there as well, and sample imprints found on official government forms that bare the government printers imprint, letter and coding.
I would like to recommend the book by Nir Mann on the History of the Kirya, which was a very important source of information.
Thank you for reading “Our Passports”.