Israel's Currency System


A country's banknotes and coins are among the symbols of its sovereignty.
The design of the banknotes reflects the bonds with the land and people of Israel. Most of the banknotes present a story of people, places, or events that are a part of the history of the nation and the State.
The economy's changes impact the quantity of series and banknotes that are issued.
With the establishment of the State, its official series of banknotes, called the "Palestine Pound", was issued by the Anglo–Palestine Bank Ltd.
In 1952, a new series was issued – the "Israel Pound", a Bank Leumi Le­-Israel Ltd. series.
With the establishment in 1954 of the Bank of Israel, the Bank was granted the exclusive authority to issue currency. The Bank of Israel even issues commemorative coins, which are marketed by the Israel Coins and Medals Corporation.
The Bank of Israel is advised by a public committee in the design of banknotes and coins. The committee is headed by a retired Supreme Court justice. Other members of the committee are appointed by the Governor of the Bank of Israel, based on relevant and professional considerations, and they represent various segments of Israeli society.
In order to ensure the regular supply of cash for circulation, the Bank of Israel undertakes various processes, such as considering the specific denominations, and issuing coins to replace banknotes of identical denomination which are removed from circulation. Today, production of banknotes and coins takes place abroad in various countries, while maintaining international standards.
The first series of banknotes issued under the authority of the Bank of Israel, which entered circulation in 1955, is the "Landscape" series (Bir'am, Upper Galilee–Sde Nehemiah, the Negev, the Jezreel Valley–Kfar Yehezkel, Sha'ar Hagai–Bab el Wad).
In 1959, the Landscape series was replaced with the "Representative Figures" series (the Woman Soldier, the Fisherman, the Labourer, the Scientist, the Pioneers).
Beginning in 1969, a series was gradually entered into circulation, portraying various notable personalities, and through the 1970s the backs of the banknotes portrayed the gates of Jerusalem, to mark the liberation of the city.
Between 1969 and 1985, far-reaching changes occurred in Israel's economy. Due to high inflation, the Pound was replaced by the Sheqel (1980), and later, the Sheqel was replaced by the New Sheqel (1985). The changes from the Pound to the Sheqel, and then from the Sheqel to the New Sheqel, were mostly seen in the denominations on the banknotes, not in the designs—the graphic designs remained essentially identical.
Though 1999, portraits of the following figures appeared on the banknotes (Pound, Sheqel, and New Sheqel): Herzl, Weizmann, Bialik, Einstein, Szold, Montefiore, Ben­ Gurion, Jabotinsky, Rothschild, Maimonides, Eshkol, Meir, Sharett, Agnon, Ben Zvi, and Shazar.
In 1999, it was decided to issue a new series, Series B of the New Sheqel, which replaced the existing series, though it kept the same four denominations and figures portrayed—Sharett, Agnon, Ben Zvi and Shazar. The new series incorporated anti-counterfeiting features and the portraits are displayed vertically, not horizontally.
The design of coins is based on motifs that appeared on ancient Jewish coins used in Israel. With the establishment of the State, there was a shortage of coins for the public to use. Due to a shortage of metal, it was decided to issue fractional paper currency—the mil and pruta—at the same time as issuing coins made out of metal.
When the government decided to change the constituent denominations of the pound from 1000 prutot to 100 agorot, agora coins were entered into circulation in 1960. The name "agora" was chosen by the Academy of the Hebrew Language based on the biblical verse, "and all who remain of your house will come to bow to him to agorot of money and a loaf of bread…" (I Samuel, 2:36).
With the entry of the sheqel currency in 1980, a new series of agorot was also entered into circulation, and when the sheqel was replaced by the New Sheqel in 1985, a new coin series with the New Sheqel denomination was entered into circulation.
In the sheqel and New Sheqel coin series, limited quantities were issued bearing portraits which had appeared on banknotes that were taken out of circulation—Herzl, Ben Gurion, Jabotinsky, Maimonides, Eshkol, Weizmann, and Golda Meir.


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