For 67 years, Shas leader Aryeh Deri asserts, Jews of Middle Eastern background have failed to receive appropriate representation in Israeli popular culture, media, and government – and he is determined to change that.
One good place to start, suggested Deri, is on Israel's currency.
On Monday, the Bank of Israel officially unveiled its new design for NIS 200 bills – a sky blue bill that will feature the image of late Israeli poet Natan Alterman.
The bill, which has been long in the planning, will be introduced into the market in the coming weeks, the Bank said Monday.
The NIS 200 bill will be the second in the series of new New Shekel bills the Bank is distributing. The new bills, the Bank said, are sturdier, and contain more anti-fraud and anti-counterfeiting features. First to be introduced last year was the green NIS 50 bill.
Alterman, considered “Israel's poet” by many of the generation that formed the state, is one of several Israeli artists and poets to be featured on the bills – all of European or Ashkenazic background.
Besides Alterman, those whose images will be on the new bills include including Shaul Tchernikovsy (already on the NIS 50 bill), and poets Rachel (Blobstein) and Leah Goldberg.
In a letter to government secretary Avichai Mandelblit, Deri blasted the bills as "unfair" and demanded the government follow through on its promise to superimpose images of Mizrahi Jews onto the bills.
"Jews of Middle Eastern origin are half of Israel's Jewish population, and it is wrong to make them wait decades until the currency design is changed again for them to have an opportunity to appear on Israel's money,” he wrote, adding that the community he speaks on behalf of is demanding action now.