Ben-Gurion, Founder of Zion: 50 Shekels (Israel, 1978)-Article

Updated: Mar 7

This Israeli banknote represents the 4th denomination of the "Old" Israeli Shekel (Series 1980). Strangely despite being printed in 1978, the Shekel was not issued until 24 February 1980. The Shekel was introduced to counter the hyperinflation of the previous Lira/Pound. Although was quickly replaced by the New Shekel, on 1 January 1986.

As an expedient measure, the first 4 denominations of the Shekel were based on the previous 4th Series Lira/Pound (1970). By simply reducing their listed value by 1/10th, matching the exchange rate. These notes feature famous Zionist figures and Jerusalem's ancient gates. While later denominations feature a radically different design. Which were more colorful and lack references to Jerusalem.


The observe features a portrait of Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion (1886-1973), backed by the library at kibbutz Sde Boker. Ben-Gurion served as Israel's founding Prime Minster from 1948-1953. Later returning as Prime Minster from 1955-1963, after the brief premiership of Moshe Sharett (1894-1965). He left political life in 1970, to pursue retirement.

The note's background depicts the kibbutz (commune) Sde Boker, the Negev Desert. Ben-Gurion chose Sde Boker as final resting place. Where he wrote his 11-volume, documenting the early history of modern Israel. His health declined shortly after the outbreak of the Yom Kippur War (1973). Eventually succumbing on 23 November 1973, his body was returned to Sde Boker after a brief state funeral. He was laid to rest besides his wife Paula Ben-Gurion (1892-1968).

To the left of Ben-Gurion are lines of Hebrew script (read right to left). The upper left text (חמישים שקל) translates to "50 Sheqalim", listing the note's value. Which is confirmed by number "50"s on the upper left and right. While the text on the lower left (בנק יששל), translated to the "Bank of Israel" the note's issuer. The fine text below (התשל"ח 1978) is the note's issue date.

To read the note's Hebrew date (5768) it must be converted. The Hebrew calendar expresses years alpha-numerically, where numbers are expressed by letters within the Hebrew alphabet. The system is similar, although more comprehensive than the Ethiopian Ge'ez dating. It's use remains mainly due to historic tradition. As common era (Christian) dating is both understood by Israeli citizens (evidenced by the "1978" date) and is considerably more practical.

To the far left is the note's watermark area. This watermark area features a portrait of Ben-Gurion, in profile. Below are a pair of signatures belonging to Bank of Israel officials. The signature to the right belongs to Bank Governor (נגיד הבנק) Arnon Gafni. While the signature to the left belongs to Advisory Council Chairman (המועצה המייעצת יושב‎ דאש) David Horowitz. The striped pill-shaped printed below is an anti-counterfeit measure.


The reverse depicts the Golden Gate, at the Old City of Jerusalem. The Golden Gate is the the only eastern gate to the sacred Temple Mount. Which was the site of the Jewish Second Temple, prior to its destruction by the Romans, during the Siege of Jerusalem (70 CE). Additionally its one of only 2 gates which allow access to the Old City of Jerusalem. Both Christian and Islamic tradition holds that it was the very gate the Jesus (Isa) entered the Old City.

This illustration of the Golden Gate serves as the note's main art area. Notably the reverse is multi-lingual, with various scripts. The text located to the lower right (English/Latin Script), above (Hebrew), and the far left (Arabic). All translated to "Bank of Israel", the before mentioned issuer of the note. Symbolically the script styles represent the religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

The note's value is listed numerically at each corner. Notably the numerals at the watermark area play a key feature. This note features Eastern Arabic Numerals ("٥٠"/50) only on the lower right. This identifies the note as a "Pick# 46b" variant. As opposed to the "Pick# 46c", which replaces the upper right number "50" with East Arabic Numerals (٥٠). This variant also features 2 green indicator bars, besides said number "٥٠". While the similar "Pick# 46d" replaces the green bars, with 4 smaller ones in black ink.

There are dual-serial numbers (5341934556) located at the far left and lower right corner. They are used as a standard anti-counterfeit measure


Additional Notes

  • This note's dimensions are 153 x 76 mm or 6.02 x 2.99 in, slightly larger than a US Dollar.

  • The preferable method to preserve this note are large sized protective sleeves.

  • The Israeli Shekel ISO code was ILR, it used both IS and a "winged" design as symbols.

  • The Lira/Pound remained exchangeable for "Old" Shekels, until 31 March 1984.

  • Hyperinflation caused the "Old" Shekel caused the introduction of the New Shekel, in 1 January 1986.

  • The "Old" Shekel was replaced by the New Shekel at an impressive rate of 1000:1.

  • Israel's largest airport Ben Gurion International (Tel Aviv) is named in his honor.

  • Ben-Gurion's home now serves as a visitor's center, known as Ben-Gurion's hut

  • Ben-Gurion's grave is located in the Midreshet Ben-Gurion desert research center.

  • Ben-Gurion had a dream to transform the arid Negev Desert to a hospitable place.

  • Midreshet Ben-Gurion is known for its solar, agricultural, biotechnology research.

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