Israel and Malta have issued a joint postage stamp to mark 50 years of diplomatic ties between the countries and recall the shared history of the Order of the Knights Hospitallers that began in Jerusalem in the Middle Ages.
The stamp, valued at NIS 3.90 ($1.10) and designed by Ronen Goldberg, features a view of the Hospitallers’ refectory in the Israeli port city of Acre alongside a similar depiction of a hall in the Hospitallers Hospital in Valletta, Malta, as well as the flags of both countries.
First-day covers of the stamp, which were issued in January, also include images of the sea wall from Acre and the fortifications of Valletta’s port.
Israel formally established diplomatic relations with Malta in 1964.
According to the Israel Postal Service website, ancient Israel enjoyed connections with the Phoenicians who were based on the central Mediterranean island. There are indications that Jews were living on the island in ancient times, and in the Middle Ages they were estimated to number about one-third of the population of Mdina, the capital at the time.
The Order of the Knights Hospitallers was founded in Jerusalem in the 12th century and established its center south of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. During the Crusader period the knights, who were also known as the Order of the Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem, were tasked with aiding Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land by providing protection and medical services. After the defeat of the Crusaders at the 1187 Battle of Hattin, the Hospitallers retreated to Acre where they built halls and community centers, some of which are still standing today.
In the later Middle Ages, facing the advancing Muslim armies, the Hospitallers were forced out of Acre and were granted the island of Malta by Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, founding their own state on the island with its capital at Valletta. The Hospitallers built a hospital overlooking the port of Valletta. The surviving building is now used as a conference center.