For decades, one of the loveliest ofJewish New Year traditions in modern Israel was sidewalk greeting-card sellers. The cards they displayed for the holiday – often with crudely drawn graphics or out-of-date photographs and encrusted with glitter — had their own special charm.

Sadly, in the age of instant messaging, e-mail and social networks, these greeting-card popup shops have all but disappeared.

The origin of the modern-day Shana Tova postcard is as old as the modern-day post office, according to a National Library of Israel essay.

“Around the time that the postal service emerged, in the 1880s, Jewish entrepreneurs were beginning to print commercial greeting cards for the new year. By this time, new year greetings constituted the main body of postcards sent by Jews, and this would remain so for some 100 years.”

With the advent of the Zionist movement, new motifs began to appear on Rosh Hashana greetings cards. Even the Messiah himself could be photo-montaged into an actual landscape of the Land of Israel.

At left, a New Year’s greeting with the biblical phrase “They who sow in tears shall reap in joy.” At right is a Yiddish New Year’s greeting depicting the arrival of the Messiah on a white donkey. Credit: National Library of the State of Israel

Zionist leaders, agricultural settlement, and new cities like Tel Aviv all figured in the postcards sent from pre-State Palestine to friends and relations.

At left, a postcard depicting a pioneer shepherdess in shorts and a blue workers shirt. At right, the modern city of 1930s Tel Aviv. Credit: National Library of the State of Israel

The Jewish New Year is traditionally a time for community donations, and cards played an important part in fund-raising for organizations. The National Library essay notes, “The cards played an important role in fundraising for [Jewish] community purposes… Secular nationalist organizations such as the Jewish National Fund, Keren Hayesod (the Jewish Agency) and the Joint Distribution Committee followed suit.”

At left, grapes carried aloft by pioneers are emblazoned with symbols of the new State of Israel. At right, Kibbutz Mashabei Sadeh and the JNF-KKL celebrate the greening of the Negev region with an image of a new irrigation pipe. Credit: National Library of the State of Israel

Family life was a symbol of success in the new land. Those who could afford such luxuries might print up personalized new year’s greetings featuring a family portrait.

At left, a 1930s greeting card from Tel Aviv with a family photo and images of pre-State Israel. At right, a family-oriented greeting card from the 1940s. Credit: National Library of the State of Israel

With the establishment of the Israel Defense Forces during the War of Independence, the image of the Jewish soldier as a symbol of national renewal also figured prominently. This motif became ever-more popular after the Six-Day War.

At left, a card celebrating Israel’s victory in June 1967 war. At right, a card featuring the popular motifs of family and IDF soldiers. Credit: National Library of the State of Israel

As the Israeli economy grew, cards depicted more material wishes for prosperity in the coming year: new cars, new houses and other riches.

These kitschy Israeli Rosh Hashana greeting cards are enjoying a second life through the holiday card-sharing service offered by Nostalgia Online.

Today, Israelis are more likely to send one another their New Year’s greetings via WhatsApp. Fortunately, there are websites that allow online users with a nostalgic bent to share images from days gone by. These include the National Library of Israel, which also offers educational programming materials; a holiday card-sharing service offered by the wonderful Nostalgia Online; the Museum of the Jewish People at Beit Hatfutsot; and Wikipedia in Hebrew, which has an extensive collection of holiday greeting card images.