Daily Israel Report

Poets, not Politicians, on New Banknotes

Menachem Begin and Yitzchak Rabin won't appear on Israel's new currency bills. Instead, poets and poetesses will grace our notes.
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 3/10/2011, 3:26 PM / Last Update: 3/10/2011, 3:50 PM

The Governor of the Bank of Israel, Stanley Fischer, has decided on the national personalities whose likenesses will appear on the planned new series of banknotes. He will submit the list to the government for its approval.

The chosen personalities: Natan Alterman, Leah Goldberg, Shaul Tchernichovsky, and Rachel the Poetess. 

The new bills, to be issued over the course of the next three years, will be for 20, 50, 100 and 200 shekels, respectively. No 500-shekel bill is planned at present.

Governor Fischer met on Wednesday with the Committee for the Planning of Banknotes, Coins and Commemorative Coins, headed by retired Supreme Court Justice Yaacov Turkel. Fischer informed them that he had accepted their proposal to depict the above-mentioned personalities on the new series of banknotes. Menachem Begin and Yitzchak Rabin had been mentioned as possible candidates for the new bills, but Begin's family objected, and Rabin was felt by some to be a controversial figure.

Fischer said he accepted the Committee's position that featuring these personalities will help to instill in the younger generation of Israelis an appreciation of their contribution to Israeli society and to the state.

The four personalities whose likenesses are to replace Nobel Prize laureate Shai Agnon, former Presidents Yitzchak Ben-Tzvi and Zalman Shazar, and former Prime Minister Moshe Sharet in our wallets and billfolds:

Natan Alterman (1910-1970), winner of the 1968 Israel Prize in Literature, author, playwright, poet, newspaper columnist, translator. Politically, he was allied with David Ben-Gurion for many years, but in 1968 he helped found the Greater Land of Israel Movement.

Rachel Blobstein (1890-1931), known publicly simply as Rachel, was one of the leading poetesses in modern Hebrew. Her songs occupy a place of honor in Israeli culture, are taught in schools, are sung at public gatherings, and have been set to music and performed by leading Israeli musicians.

Leah Goldberg (1911-1970), prolific poet, author, playwright, literary translator, and researcher of Hebrew literature. She translated War and Peace, among other works, into Hebrew, headed Hebrew University's Department of Comparative Literature, and wrote works of drama and children’s literature. Like Rachel, she never married.

Sha’ul Tchernichovsky (1875-1943), a doctor, poet, translator, member of the Committee of the Hebrew Language, two-time winner of the Bialik Prize for Literature.