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Israel Currency – Amazing History Told by Coins

Israel Currency

Today, we know the New Israel Shekel is the current currency in Israel. Nevertheless, it wasn’t the first Israeli currency. There were several others; from Biblical times (silver coins were very popular) till our modern days. Here are several kinds of Israel Currency until our days.

Israel Currency in Ancient Times Towards The Middle Ages

In the 7th and 6th centuries, BC the invention of coins by foreign merchants came to Israel, which usually measured one’s wealth by counting one’s cattle or farm. The Israeli coin was formed for easier trade and was named Shekel (which means to measure weight) because they measured the value of the coin by its weight. Some local coins weight significantly more, like the bronze Egyptian one-ounce coin.

In several places in Israel where you could even witness the exact method of making coins. In Kefar Heshmonaim in Shilat, the owner would take any metal piece you got and turn it to an ancient coin.

There were many common symbols on the coins. In the 4th century, the coins had various symbols on them; corn, birds, and even wheat. John Hyrcanus made coins that had several letters that remind us of ancient Arabic, Aramaic, Greek, and Hebrew.

There were several different currencies during the Roman Empire times. There were Dinars, Shekels, Sela, and several others. Even then, there was a currency exchange rate, where some currencies were more valuable than others, specifically the Dinar.

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Israeli Liras

The Middle Age

During the times of the Middle Age, the were several kinds of currency, depends on the people that rule the country. During the Byzantine era in Israel, the coins were made in the image of the ruler and occasionally the Christian cross. During the Arab era, the coins started to look differently; the faces of the former rulers fade away, and the coins had mostly the Arabic language. The Byzantine currency came back with the crusaders but quickly disappeared when they left.

Ottoman Regime Influences on Israel Currency

The currency of the Ottoman Regime was Sultani, which was made out of Gold, and Piaster, Medish, and Para, which were made from silver. There was also the Turkish Lira that is still being used today in Turkey and in northern Cyprus, and it was remade in 2005.

There was a major influence on the Ottoman Empire from other cultures. In some places, you might find Napoleon golden coins, with the image of Napoleon Bonapart. Even the Dollars, Franks, and the Pound were found in many places.

British Mandate

The British mandate was very short, but the use of mil, Egyptian Lira, and our own Israeli Lira was used. The last time there was a currency involved with Judaism was over 1500 years ago.

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State of Israel (From 1948)

The Israeli Lira became the first Israeli currency after the independence war, but in 1960 they had to divide it to smaller values, which gave birth to the Agura; 0.01 from the Lira, and still being used as a 0.01 for the Shekel. The source of the name Agura came from the Bible. There was also Prtuta; 0.001 from the Lira.

During the late 70’s and the 80’s there was major inflation in Israel’s economy. 40 Israeli Liras became 1 Dollar, and the government had to change the currency twice. The first time was Israeli Shekel and the second time was the New Israeli Shekel that we know today.

There were many known people on the currency of Israel. David Ben Gurion made several appearances, Golda Meir was on the 10,000 Old Shekels bills and on the 10 NIS coins and bills. The newly formed Israeli bills that were made from 2015 changed from the images of politicians to famous Israeli Poets like Rachel Bluwstein and Natan Alterman.

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Zalman Shazar on the red 200 NIS bill

Israel Currency Can Teach Us about Israel’s History

Israel is a land filled with historical events. There is evidence of people living here in the past several thousands of years (even more). By learning on the currency, we can learn about Israel’s history and even the history of the entire area.