JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel’s Cabinet authorized newly designed bank notes to be issued at the end of this year, despite criticism that the new bills feature only Ashkenazi Jews.
The personalities who will grace the new currencies are all poets and writers: Rachel Bluwstein Sela on the 20 shekel note, Shaul Tchernichovsky on the 50 shekel note, Leah Goldberg on the 100 shekel note and Natan Alterman on the 200 shekel note. The personalities were chosen by a public committee.
"They are beautiful and touch our soul," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said of the new paper money presented Sunday. "I agree with those who say that there is place to propose representatives of Sephardic and other Jewish communities. I am making a concrete proposal that the first to be submitted for the next banknotes is someone whom I think is among the greatest Israeli poets – Rabbi Yehuda Levi, whose poetry I esteem as the work of a genius and who is important to our heritage. But there will certainly be other proposals. You are invited to submit them to the next governor of the Bank of Israel."
Bluwstein Sela, who is known as Rachel the Poetess and who died in 1931, was a leading Hebrew poet whose works have been set to music. Tchernichovsky, who died in 1943, was a two-time winner of the Bialik Prize for Literature. Goldberg, who died in 1970, was a poet, author, playwright, literary translator and researcher of Hebrew literature who translated "War and Peace" into Hebrew. Alterman, an author, playwright, poet and newspaper columnist who died in 1970, won the 1968 Israel Prize for Literature.
The current faces on Israeli currency are former Prime Minister Moshe Sharett on the 20 shekel note, S.Y. Agnon on the 50 shekel note, and former presidents Yitzhak Ben- Zvi and Zalman Shazar on the 100 shekel and 200 shekel notes, respectively.