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Have Papers, Will Travel

Shira Yehudit Djalilmand

Avraham Avinu left his hometown of Haran to travel to Egypt. He probably didn’t need a birth certificate, passport, or visa to travel then, but today, you won’t get very far without these vital documents.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

A History of Passports Surprisingly, passports as we know them haven’t been around all that long. But something with the same purpose — a document to let someone travel safely through another country — has been around for thousands of years. The first mention of something similar to a passport is actually in the Tanach, in the Book of Nechemiah. The navi Nechemiah was traveling from ancient Persia to Judah to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, for which the Persian king granted him letters requesting safe passage. In Britain, the earliest mention of such “letters of safe conduct,” as they became known, was in an act of Parliament during Henry V’s reign, dated 1414. By the mid-1800s, most countries were using some form of passport, but when the railroads made travel so much easier, the passport system couldn’t handle the huge numbers of travelers, and so passports were abolished in most countries. 


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