Women of note

New bills to feature famous Israeli women poets

Leah Goldberg and Rachel Bluwstein, both Ashkenazi, to grace NIS 20 and NIS 100 notes, despite PM’s pledge to celebrate Sephardic Jews on bills

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter.

Hebrew poets Rachel (left) and Leah Goldberg (right) on new NIS 20 and 100 banknotes. (Courtesy of the Bank of Israel)
Hebrew poets Rachel (left) and Leah Goldberg (right) on new NIS 20 and 100 banknotes. (Courtesy of the Bank of Israel)

New NIS 20 and NIS 100 banknotes will be introduced in a week, the Bank of Israel announced Thursday.

Bank of Israel Governor Karnit Flug will present the new bills to President Reuven Rivlin at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem on Wednesday.

The bills feature famous Israeli poetesses.

Rachel Bluwstein — better known simply as Rachel the poetess — appears on the red NIS 20 bill, while Leah Goldberg graces the NIS 100 note.

They will be the first of the new Israeli banknotes currently in circulation — which come in denominations of NIS 20, 50, 100 and 200 — to feature women.

The new NIS 20 banknote featuring Rachel Bluwstein, better known as Rachel the poetess (Courtesy of the Bank of Israel)

The NIS 10 bill issued in 1985 featured a portrait of former prime minister Golda Meir, until it was removed from circulation in the 1990s.

Meir was also featured on the 10,000 shekel bill, before hyperinflation prompted the replacement of the shekel with the new Israeli shekel in 1985. Numerous women were featured on the Israeli pound before it was supplanted by the shekel in 1980.

The new notes fly in the face of a pledge made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2013 that “Next time, we’ll depict representatives from Sephardi Judaism [on banknotes].”

That was an attempt to calm uproar among Israeli lawmakers over the omission of poets of Sephardi descent in favor of Ashkenazi ones on new bills for NIS 50 and NIS 200.

The NIS 200 bill, featuring the portrait of poet Natan Alterman. (Bank of Israel)

The NIS 50 note has an image of Shaul Tchernichovsky, a Russian-born Hebrew poet, while the NIS 200 bill has a portrait of Nathan Alterman, a Polish-born playwright, poet and journalist who wrote in Hebrew.

Bluwstein and Goldberg were also Ashkenazi.

The new notes incorporate advanced features against counterfeiting and differ slightly in length to aid blind and visually impaired users distinguish between them.

The public can continue to use their existing bills for those denominations until they are gradually phased out.

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