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Saturday, January 1, 2011

Ruins on Israeli Money

In an earlier post I briefly mentioned that there have been some official Israel stamps that feature ruins. This is not the only place ruins have appeared in official state function; there have also been a few examples of ruins on legal tender.

The earliest example of ruins on currency actually predates the state. During the British Mandate, the Palestine Currency Board was granted the power to print money, as per a law passed on August 2, 1926 and put into action on February 7, 1927. Although there were paper bills of six denominations (500 Mils and 1, 5, 10, 50 and 100 Pounds), only three images were used, all of them of historic buildings: Rachel's Tomb, the Dome of the Rock, and the Ramleh Crusaders' Tower. The reverse side of each showed the Tower of David. I suppose that Rachel's Tomb and the Tower of David can each be considered ruins, but in particular I think the Tower of Ramleh qualifies. Some nice drawings were made of it by various traveler in Palestine. It appeared on the 5, 10, 50 and 100 Pound bills.
James Hurley, 1918

After 1948, a number of series of bills were issued that contained no pictures and used existing ornamental designs as the borders. Only in 1955 was the first set of bills produced that had images. This series, the third overall and the first Bank of Israel series of the pound, showed various landscapes around the country. on the 500 Prutah bill was a picture f the ancient synagogue at Bir'am in the Galil, one of the best-preserved ruined synagogues from antiquity.
A few years later, with the second series of the pound, the 1/2 Lira bill contained the image of the entrance to the Sanhedrin Tombs in Jerusalem.
In the past 50 years, however, the idea of putting ruins on the bills seems to have fallen out of vogue. Perhaps this is because they don't show the proper vitality or portray Israel as sufficiently modern. In any case, today the bills mostly focus on individuals. It should be noted that the current 100 New Israeli Shekel bill contains the Synagogue of Peki'in, which was at one point a ruin. However, the reason it appears on that bill, which contains Yizchak ben Zvi on the other side, is because Ben Zvi arranged for the synagogue to be renovated in 1953, and previously it had been renovated in 1873, thus destroying its ruin value.

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