Shekels (illustrative)
Shekels (illustrative)Flash 90

Two Tel Aviv thieves thought they hit the jackpot when they broke into an apartment and absconded with wads of cash – and they would have hit the jackpot, if this was still 1979.

Unfortunately for them, the wad of cash they stole had no shekels – but consisted of liras, the Israeli pound currency that was retired and replaced in 1980. Even though the “cash” they stole was worthless, the two thieves, ages 23 and 61, were arrested by police for breaking and entering.

The incident occurred Saturday afternoon, as the thieves combed through a Tel Aviv apartment building looking for empty apartments. Finding one, they managed to get its door open, and rifled through closets, drawers, and other typical hiding places. They didn't find gold or jewels as they had hoped, but a moment before leaving the apartment they noticed a bag of what looked like money.

Grabbing it, they ran out – and ran into the apartment's owner, who immediately called police. Fortunately for him, two cops were just a block away, and they rushed over after getting the call – just in time to catch the thieves red-handed, as they tried to hide their booty in a garbage can next to the building.

Police arrested them and dug out the wad of bills from its hiding place – with the two showing considerable embarrassment that all they could show for their efforts was a stash of currency that has not been in use for more than 40 years.

The pair claimed that they had nothing to do with the theft, and that even if they had, what they stole had zero value – but police arrested them anyway.

The lira, Israel's official currency in since the establishment of the state in 1948, was replaced by the shekel in 1980 by then Prime Minister Menachem Begin as part of the country's economic reforms, at a rate of 10 lira: one shekel. The shekel did not do well, falling victim to hyper-inflation in Israel in the early 1980s, and was replaced by the New Israeli Shekel (NIS) on January 1, 1986, at a rate of 1000 shekels: 1 NIS.