MKs decry lack of racial diversity on new Shekels

Suggested changes to currency include exclusively Ashkenazic Jewish poets; MKs react to absence of Sephardic, Arab faces.

April 28, 2013 12:16
1 minute read.
Shekel mock up from Naftali Benntt's Facebook page, April 28, 2013

mock up shekels370. (photo credit: Courtesy Facebook)


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The government was set to approve the first in a series of changes to the currency Monday morning that would change the images on the 200,100, and 50 shekel notes to four prominent Hebrew poets, Israel media outlets reported.

But the move has come under fire because the four suggested poets are all of Ashkenazic Jewish background.

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Before the cabinet meeting, Economics and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett wrote on his Facebook profile that he will insist that a Sephardic poet be included in the new money, and posted a poem by Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi: "My heart is in the east, but I am at the end of the west."

"This poem was written in the Middle Ages, and expresses the endless longing of the Jewish people for the Land of Israel," Bennett wrote.

Bennett was echoing Shas MK Aryeh Deri's criticism made last week who expressed incredulity at the lack of a suggested Sephardi poet.  

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu responded to the controversy about the lack of Sepharadim on the notes at the opening of the cabinet meeting on Sunday, saying "next time" a representative of the Sephardic community would be chosen, Israeli media reported. 

Netanyahu, like Bennett chose the poet Yehuda HaLevi as a worthy candidate to have his face on Israeli money.


Meretz MK Issawi Freij lamented the lack of Arab poets on money.

"We haven't seen even a hint of intention to put a non-Jewish image on money. Sixty-five years have passed since the state was established, and the Arab public is still not considered part of it, not in its symbols or in more significant ways," he said.

While it is commendable to put poets on money, Freij added, Israeli-Arab writer Emile Habibi is more than worthy to be printed next to the others. 
The suggested poets for the series of new Shekel bills were: Rachel the Poetess for the 20 note, Shaul Tchernichovsky for the 50, Leah Goldberg for the 100 bill, and Nathan Alterman for the 200 note.

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