Introduction

Why do we collect what we do? Coins act as a collector's item for many because they're small, common, and represent much more than meets the eye. There have been three stages of money since the founding of the State: Lira, Shekel and New Israeli Shekel (ש״ח ,שקל חדש, or NIS). The monetary symbol for the NIS (₪) is the joining of "ש" and "ח" (shin and chet), and, like the dollar sign, it is placed next to the monetary value.

NIS - the New Israeli Shekel

Half Shekel (50 Agorot)

What symbols do you see? What do you think they mean? Can you find these symbols anywhere else? What languages can you identify?

(The answers to these questions can be found in the Resource links at the end of the page.)

One Shekel

The smallest of the coins (in size) is rich in design. What motif do you see? What language is written on the back? Why do you think this particular design was chosen for the one shekel coin?

Five Shekel

From where does the "column" motif originate? Where else can you find this symbol? What do you notice about the shape of the coin?

10 Shekel

The designs of all of these coins are inspired by old Jerusalem coins, but the 10 shekel coin pays particular homage with its ancient Hebrew script. What does this coin say? What do you notice about this coins texture compared to others?*

10 Agorot

What do you see on these coins? What do these symbols mean? How do they compare? Where do you think the bottom coin originates? If either of these coins were currently in your hand, what would they feel like? What are they made of? How would their textures differ? Would you classify the bottom example as a coin?

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*Israeli bills and coins are made up of different lengths and contain different shapes and bumps. This is to help the blind determine the value for each bill and coin they possess.

 

A bigger conversation is the theme of "currency."

  • What is currency? How does currency reflect a country?
  • How does currency reflect a person?
  • Is it limited to just bills and coins?
  • What do you keep in your wallet?
  • What do you possess that could act as currency?
  1. Design your own coin. Each coin has a personality. What would your coin look like? What material would you make your coin out of? Have your kids actually design and construct their own coins!
  2. Discuss everyday phrases that reference coins. For example: "A penny saved is a penny earned," "My two cents," "It's a coin toss." In Israel they say, for example: Kesef lo gadel al ha'etzim (כסף לא גדל על העצים, "money doesn't grow on trees"), Zman zeh kesef (זמן זה כסף, "Time is money"), and Mi she'lo merim eser agurot lo shaveh eser agurot (מי שלא מרים עשר אגורות לא שווה עשר אגורות "If you don't pick up ten agorot you're not worth ten agorot")
  3. Compare and contrast some common phrases.
  4. Collections. What does a collection consist of? Offer a variety of American and Israeli objects and have the kids create their own collections. What do they choose to peice together and why?
  5. Blind spending. Simulate what it would be like to be blind and purchasing. Which coins are easy to identify and which are harder? Combine both American, Israeli and alternative coins for simulation. (Israeli bills contain raised lines on their left sides to help the blind.)
  6. Purchasing at the Shuk. Simulate a fast-moving Israeli market. Have buyers and vendors exchange various products and coins. Lessons of prioritizing spending, Hebrew numbers and math!