In November 2012, the Bank of Israel announced via a press release that a new series of banknotes was in the final stages of design. The first new banknote since 1999, the NIS (New Israeli Shekel) 50 was put into circulation in September 2014 and the second, the NIS 200, was put into circulation last month on December 23, 2015.

While certainly newsworthy, we also love this as a teaching tool that can be used in a variety of ways. First of all, using currency is a great introduction to teaching students about individuals and society.  By asking questions of comparison about who is on American (or Canadian or Mexican) money we can gain insight into the leaders and individuals that are seen as important in the development of a nation. Ask students to do some research about the individuals whose images appear on the current banknotes and document where they were born, when they made aliyah and the significant contributions they made to Israel’s development.

For older students, share with them the press release hyperlinked above, but conceal the names of who was chosen to appear on the new series of banknotes.  Tell the students that they are in charge of deciding whose images will appear and ask them to choose individuals for each piece of currency and provide a case for why they chose who they did.  Compare their choices to the actual ones made by the Bank of Israel.  An interesting discussion could also be had, on who is missing from the current and new banknotes.  Recently, for example, Aryeh Deri, the leader of the Shas party was critical of the fact that no Sepahrdim were chosen to appear on the new banknotes.

Currency is more than just money, as an artifact it is a primary source that can reveal a great deal about a country’s values and ideals.