Most countries use banknotes as a platform to give honor to the people, places and events they hold in high esteem. But the extraordinary circumstances surrounding the rebirth of Israel made it tricky to give any national significance to its first currency. At the time, there was no printing house sophisticated enough to produce bills with protections against counterfeiting. Nor was there a publisher willing to print money for a people group that might never actually become a nation. And, of course, the early Zionist leaders were forever arguing over what to call the new country – what name would be ordered for the print job?
In the end, the chairman of the Anglo-Palestine Bank, which was owned by the Jewish Agency, persuaded the New York American Banknote Co. to print bills even before the establishment of the state in 1948. However, “Israel,” the country’s new name, did not even appear on its first banknotes. Nor was the...
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