Weizmann, The Biochemist Statesman: 5 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 feature a portrait of 1st Israeli President Chaim Weizmann (1874-1952), back by the Weizmann Institute of Science. Prior to entering politics, Weizmann was an accomplished biochemist in the field of industrial fermentation. He founded the Sieff Research Institute, later renamed the Weizmann Institute of Science in his honor.

The note's background depicts the Weizmann Institute of Science. The Weizmann Institute is unique from other Israeli public universities. As it offers only post-gradate degrees, in the fields of natural and exact sciences. The institute rated amongst the best research institutes in the world. And has been associated with 6 Nobel Laureates and 3 Turing Award winners.

To the left of Weizmann are lines of Hebrew script (read right to left). The upper left text (חמישה שקלים) translates to "5 Sheqalim", listing the note's value. Which is confirmed by number "5"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 Chaim Weizmann, 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 circle-shape printed below is a blind assitance measure.


The reverse depicts the Damascus Gate, one of two gates leading into Jerusalem's Old City. The gate receives its name from the Syrian city of Damascus. As it was the gate used by merchants trading between the two ancient cities. The current version of the gate was commissioned in 1537. By the Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent (1494-1566).

This illustration of the Damascus 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 ("٥"/5) only on the lower right. There are dual-serial numbers (0466994295) 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 141 x 76 mm or 5.55 x 2.99 in, 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.

  • During WWII Chaim Weizmann was an honorary adviser to the British Ministry of Supply.

  • Chaim Weizmann renounced his British citizenship to become President of Israel.

  • The Sieff Research Institute was funded, by an endowment from British Baron Israel Sieff.

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