The Israel Postal Company issued a new series of stamps featuring common signs in Israeli Sign Language.
About 650,000 people in Israel are deaf or hard of hearing, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics, making the problem bigger than most people suspect. The new stamps are intended to raise awareness of the challenges facing deaf Israelis.
The postage entered circulation on Tuesday and features pictures of the signs for "friendship", "thank you", "good bye", "love" and "kiss". They are the product of cooperation between the Institute for the Advancement of Deaf Persons in Israel and the Israel Philatelic Service.
Yael Kakoon, executive director of the institute, said that she and other members of Israel's deaf community hoped that the stamps "will increase awareness of the ongoing struggle of deaf and hard-of-hearing Israelis to better integrate into Israeli society and to achieve recognition of Israeli Sign Language as one of the official languages of the State of Israel."
“When someone says ‘thank you’ to a deaf person in their language, it gives them a feeling of belonging," Kakoon said. "Deaf Israelis have the right to equal and active participation in society, as in all realms of life, and to full education in their language. We hope that these stamps will be another step on the path towards official recognition of Israeli Sign Language in Israel. When you want to show respect for someone, you try to address them in their language."
Yaron Ratzon, director of the Israel Philatelic Service, said that the stamps are intended to raise the level of awareness of the deaf and hard-of-hearing community "through the use of these carefully chosen signs. As the stamps are intended for regular use, with time the majority of Israelis will be exposed to this important message," Ratzon said.