Shas MK proposes currency motto

Ze'ev wants 'We believe in the creator of the world' on shekel bills, citing America's 'In God We Trust.'

Nissim zeev 248 88  (photo credit: The Knesset)
Nissim zeev 248 88
(photo credit: The Knesset)
Wishing to take the American currency standard of 'trusting' in God one step further, Shas MK Nissim Ze'ev would like Israeli currency to affirm that God created the world. Ze'ev has submitted a private member's bill that would require Israel to print on its currency the phrase "We believe in the creator of the world" in the hopes of promoting Israelis' faith. "Coins and bills are a central feature of our lives, and it is appropriate that the bills issued by Israel should have a reminder of Jewish belief, so that even those who do not follow the mitzvot will receive a reminder of this basic aspect of Israel's faith," explained Ze'ev. He added that similar statements appear on other countries' currencies, although he and Shas officials could only think of the American example. Ze'ev argued that the choice of the phrase made it more palatable to Israel's religious minorities, as the term "creator of the world" could be accepted by Christians and Muslims alike. Shas spokesman Ro'i Nachmanovich added that "even people in Meretz who believe in the big bang can accept the idea of the world's creation." Furthermore, Ze'ev added, the term used fewer of the letters involved in the holy name of God, and thus decreased the chance that desecration of the bills would constitute a desecration of God's name. The Bank of Israel, which reviewed the bill, rejected the proposal back in June, The Jerusalem Post has learned. The central bank pointed out that it had already opposed two similar private bills put forward in 2003 and 2004. The bank said that the proposal was not feasible for a country characterized by a diversity of religious minorities, while even among the Jewish population views on religion and the state differ. The proposed phrase would hurt the feelings of various segments of the country's citizens, concluded the bank. Furthermore any words added to the banknotes would have to be translated into English and Arabic. Ze'ev dismissed the last claim Tuesday, arguing on Israel Radio that "a bill is not a road sign that everybody needs to understand in order to reach their destination. In the Jewish, Zionist state, Hebrew should be sufficient." By law, only the Bank of Israel may issue currency but the government has the authority over its issuance. The Public Committee for the Planning of Banknotes and Coins recommends designs of banknotes and coins, which are submitted to the central bank governor for his approval. In consultation with the Bank of Israel Advisory Council, and the approval of the finance minister, the governor determines the form, content, and other details of banknotes and coins. About half of the 30 notes issued since the founding of the State of Israel featured subjects of Jewish character, such as synagogues or archeological findings. The other half pictured landscapes in Israel, or cities, like Jerusalem and Tiberias. About two-thirds of the notes also bear images of Israeli leaders. Few other nations include divine textual references on their currency. Israel's Middle Eastern neighbors largely refrain from doing so - likely out of concern that references to Allah could be treated disrespectfully due to wear and tear or handling by non-Muslims. The Egyptian pound shows pharaohs on one side and a mosque on the other; Saudi Arabia's 500 riyal note has a picture of the pilgrimage to Mecca. The Iranian rial has Ayatollah Khomeini on one side and Jerusalem's Dome of the Rock on the other side - but no written references to the divine. In America officials first placed the motto "In God We Trust" on American coins during the Civil War in 1864, when the Treasury Department received a flood of letters calling for greater expressions of religiosity in the public sphere. "In God We Trust" was put on all paper currency by an Act of Congress in 1955. A large majority of Americans still support keeping the motto on the currency, according to a report by the Pew Forum, a respected American research organization. The motto has survived repeated legal challenges by atheists and other activists who consider the phrase in violation of the US Constitution, which forbids the establishment of a religion. Shas is still unsure whether it will be able to enlist support from any other party in the Knesset, \even that of fellow haredi party United Torah Judaism. "But we believe - and that is why we're confident in the bill," added Nachmanovich.