American school children are vying for the chance to put their personal stamp on the Holy Land — literally.“Sticking Together,” a contest sponsored by the Israeli Postal Authority and Babaga Newz magazine, is asking children to design an Israeli postage stamp. Four winning submissions will be featured on government-issued stamps in December 2005. American and Canadian students, grades one through eight, can enter.It’s part of the Babaga Newz annual “Salute to Israel” competition. Earlier this year, the 3-year-old magazine, a joint project of the AVI CHAI Foundation and Jewish Family & Life! Media, asked its young readers to write a jingle promoting tourism to Israel. Fourth-grader Alexandra Kugler of Albany penned the winning lyrics to “My Trip to Israel.” Her reward: A trip to New York to ride the Babaga Newz float in the Israel Day Parade. In 2005, the stakes are higher.

Magazine executives considered having a bumper sticker contest, before Joyce Lempel, a New York-based Israeli stamp enthusiast, contacted them this fall. In 1996, Lempel worked with the Israeli Postal Authority to promote a stamp launch.

She conceived the stamp contest, got authority’s go-ahead, but needed a partner organization to get it off the ground. That’s when she called up JFL! Media CEO Yossi Abramowitz. The stamp contest, sure to cast a wide net, soon supplanted the bumper sticker idea.At the Hebrew Academy of Long Beach, submissions are already pouring in, said Max Gottfried, an art teacher there. One entry depicts a group of rabbis praying at the Kotel, while another features colorful Purim masks. “It’s a nice display of creativity and nationalism,” Gottfied said. “When they think about the contest, they start to gush. They say, ‘Imagine if I won.’” The contest teaches North American children about the bond between Israel and diaspora Jewry, according to Abramowitz. “It also delivers the message to Israelis that they are a part of world Jewry, which could lessen their sense of isolation,” he said. Original designs are to be rendered horizontally to fit an 8 1/2-by-11-inch sheet of paper.

Entries should represent Israel’s people, places, symbols, history or nature. The word “Israel,” the denomination of the stamp and any computer-generated graphics should be omitted. Official rules are available at www.babaganewz.com.