• Issues: January 1986
  • Designer: Z. Narkiss
  • Stamp size: 20 x 25.7 mm
  • Sheet of 50 stamps Tabs: 10
  • Printers: Government Printers
  • Method of printing: Photogravure

The word "Sheqel" appears very early in the Bible. Based on the Hebrew "lishqol" - to weigh - its connotation was generally accepted both in ancient Palestine and in the whole of the Middle East. Many biblical examples can be cited, including that in Genesis 23:15, when Ephron the Hittite of Hebron shrewdly conveys to the bereaved Abraham the value of the plot he wanted for Sarah's burial - "four hundred sheqels of silver" - while a continuation of the story in verse 16 describes the payment of "four hundred sheqels of silver, current money with the merchants."

Another reference in Genesis 24:22 indicates that the sheqel of those days, nearly 4000 years ago, was truly a weight. Here Abraham's servant brings to Rebecca "a golden earring of half a sheqel weight, and two bracelets... of ten sheqels weight of gold." Centuries passed before the meaning of "Sheqel" became synonymous with "coinage," particularly in regard to Jewish coins minted in Eretz Israel. First known was the Phoenician Sidonian double silver sheqel, common currency in the fourth century BCE and used extensively in Eretz Israel.

Widely circulated in Eretz Israel during the Second Temple period, the silver Tyrian sheqel weighed about 15 grams and was of a high standard. The regular half-sheqel Temple tax, payable by every Israelite "from twenty years old and above," (Exodus 30:14) seems to have been acceptable in the same currency.

Only during the 66-70 CE revolt against the Romans were the characteristic Jewish silver sheqels, half-sheqels and quarter-sheqels minted, bearing in archaic Hebrew the words "Sheqel Israel." The timing of the order to mint independently came partly as a mark of nationhood and partly because the production of the Tyrian sheqel stopped about 56 CE.

Pictures of three 'Silver sheqels" of that period are shown on the three top-value stamps of Israel's first postage stamp series which was issued in May 1948. As coinage is considered one of the symbols of statehood, it had been the idea of the designer of these stamps to signify the "bridge" between the Jewish Commonwealth of 2000 years ago and the renaissance of the modern State of Israel by using the "sheqel" motif.

This renaissance was brought about through the fruition of the ideas and endeavours of Dr. Theodor Herzl (1860-1904), the founder of political Zionism, whose books and writing envisaged the renewal of Jewish statehood in the ancient Homeland of Eretz Israel

It is, therefore, fitting that his portrait should appear on the stamps of the new Stand-by series with denominations in "New Sheqels," which will replace the one that has been in use since 1980.

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Stand-by stamps