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Sir Moses Montefiore, The Jewish Baron: 1 Shekel (Israel, 1978)-Article

Updated: Apr 17

This Israeli banknote represents the 1st 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 Sir Moses Montefiore (1784-1885). Sir Montefiore was a wealthy British banker, known for his philanthropy. As a Sephardi Jew, he provided economic assistance to Jewish communities in Ottoman Palestine (Israel/Lebanon/Syria). Mishkenot Sha'ananim (Peaceful Dwellings) was amongst his most successful project.

The note's background depicts the Montefiore Windmill and Mishkenot Sha'ananim guesthouse, in Jerusalem. The Mishkenot Sha'ananim was the first relatively modern (1860) Jewish settlement, built outside Jerusalem's Old City. Restoration efforts were undertaken after the Israeli victory, in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. The guesthouse is now a historic landmark.

To the left of Sir Montefiore are lines of Hebrew script (read right to left). The upper left text (שקל אחד) it translates to "One Shekel", listing the note's value. Which is confirmed by number "1"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 system. 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 mirrored portrait of Sir Montefiore, 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 circles printed below, are a blind assistance measure.


The reverse depicts the Jaffa Gate, at the Old City of Jerusalem. The gate receives its name from the port city of Jaffa. As it was the gate used by merchants trading between the two cities. The gate is "L" shaped used to slow down attackers. Controversially Ottoman authorities breached the gate in 1998. To allow German Emperor Wilhelm II to triumphally enter the Old City.

This illustration of the Jaffa 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 ("١"/1) only on the lower right. There are dual-serial numbers (1619507781) located at the far left and lower right corner. They are used as a standard anti-counterfeit measure

"Old" Israeli Shekel Gallery

(Gallery only represents 1980 issued banknotes, all which share a common style)


Additional Notes

  • This note's dimensions are 135 x 76 mm or 5.31 x 2.99 in, wider 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.


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