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Shekel Tovi

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Israeli banks and the Stock Exchange will reopen Friday after being closed for three days to allow the official transfer of the currency from the Pound to the Shekel. The Shekel, which is equal to IL 10, is worth about 17 cents in U.S. currency.

Although Israelis were greeting each other with “shekel tov,” a switch on “mazel tov,” economists do not believe the new currency will help stem inflation unless other strict measures are taken. If not, they predict the Shekel will be worth in two years as little as the Pound is today.

The introduction of the Shekel was announced last February but when the day arrived, Israelis this week did not appear to be ready for it. Most had none of the new currency, had not changed their check books and were unsure what financial regulations might be imposed with the introduction of the Shekel.

The Pound will still be accepted as currency although 80 percent of the bank notes and 35 percent of the old coins have already been withdrawn from circulation. Checks made out in Pounds will be accepted for another 10 days without any surcharges.

The government is retaining the same portraits on the bill with a zero lopped off. For example, a IL 100 note with a picture of Theodor Herzl will now be a 10 Shekel note.

Price tags have already been changed throughout the country, listing the cost in Shekels. Israelis, after enjoying Succoth tomorrow, will be able to go to the banks Friday morning, which will open a half-hour earlier to meet the expected crowds, and begin life with the new currency, which is after all a return to the monetary unit used in Biblical times.

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