Women of note

Two banknotes featuring the portraits of female poets Rachel Bluwstein and Leah Goldberg went into circulation, completing a poetic series that includes poets Shaul Tchernichovsky and Natan Alterman.

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November 23, 2017 02:04
2 minute read.
BANK OF ISRAEL Governor Karnit Flug delivers the new banknote series to President Reuven Rivlin.

BANK OF ISRAEL Governor Karnit Flug delivers the new banknote series to President Reuven Rivlin at the President’s Residence on Wednesday.. (photo credit: MARK NEYMAN/GPO)

 
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Not since NIS 10 banknotes bearing the likeness of Prime Minister Golda Meir – which were released in 1985 and went out of circulation in the 1990s – has there been the likeness of a woman on an Israeli banknote. Today, November 23, two banknotes featuring the portraits of female poets Rachel Bluwstein and Leah Goldberg go into circulation, completing a poetic series that includes poets Shaul Tchernichovsky and Natan Alterman.

The green NIS 50 banknote featuring the likeness of Tchernichovsky went into circulation in 2014; the Alterman NIS 200 blue banknote followed in 2015. Now they are being joined by the yellowish NIS 100 note featuring Goldberg and the burgundy-red NIS 20 bill featuring Bluwstein, commonly known by her first name Rachel.

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Governor of the Bank of Israel Karnit Flug on Wednesday delivered the whole framed and glass-encased series to President Reuven Rivlin, and also brought him the loose notes to examine – but not to keep.

One of the Bank of Israel officials accompanying Flug told Rivlin that eventually his likeness would be on a banknote, to which Rivlin replied that he was worth at least NIS 200.

Rivlin said that it was appropriate that the first woman Governor of the Bank of Israel should have banknotes honoring females released on her watch. In the past, he said, most banknotes featured the portraits of politicians and statesmen, and it was an interesting change to have representatives of the humanities. “After all, we all grew up on the poems of Rachel and those of Leah Goldberg.”

He was also gratified to see that the proposal by the late MK and government minister Uri Orbach to include Braille on banknotes had been implemented. This will allow the blind and the vision-impaired to know what denomination they are handling.

Meir is one of the few Israeli leaders whose face has appeared more than once on banknotes. She was also depicted on the old 10,000 shekel note. But she was not the first. The face of Henrietta Szold, the founder of Hadassah, was on the five-lira banknote released in 1973.

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Before the introduction of the shekel, there was the Israeli pound, or the lira, which was a form of continuity from the Palestine pound.

When preparations for the current series, designed by Osnat Eshel, were announced in 2013, Shas leader Arye Deri complained that nearly every Israeli banknote to date had featured Ashkenazi personalities. Up until now, the only non-Ashkenazi personalities were Maimonides and Moses Montefiore. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised him that this would be amended with the next series.

Given the fact that women’s faces are not permitted to appear in ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) publications and are defaced when they appear on billboards near Haredi neighborhoods, it will interesting to see whether Haredi men eliminate NIS 100 and NIS 20 notes from their billfolds.

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