New Issue: Bank of Israel to release two new notes

The Bank of Israel recently issued its new 20 New Israel Shekels (NIS) and 100 NIS banknotes, which are the two remaining denominations of the bank’s latest series.

The portraits on the new notes will feature poetess Rachel Bluwstein (20 NIS) and Leah Goldberg (100 NIS).

RACHEL THE POETESS (1890-1931)

Bluwstein is among the most prominent and well-known Hebrew poets and is regarded by many as foremost among them. Her poetry has earned a place of honour in Hebrew culture, and she is beloved by many generations of readers.

She was born in Saratov, a city on the frontier of the Russian empire, to a Zionist family. She immigrated to Palestine in her youth. Rachel first settled in the city of Rehovot and later moved to Havat Ha’Alamot, a women’s farm, on the shores of Lake Galilee. She later moved to the Deganya kibbutz, where she was diagnosed with tuberculosis, a disease which at the time was considered terminal, and which ultimately caused her untimely death.

She began writing in her youth in Russian. Her work was influenced by the Bible, contemporary pioneer literature, and sources and schools in Russian and French literature. Her poetry is remarkable for its simplicity and its succinct language. It expresses her loves, her disappointments, her pains and fears. It is replete with allusions to her short, tragic life; a large portion of it deals with awaiting death. Among her most famous poems are “Only about myself”, “To My Land”, “Encounter, Barely an Encounter”, “Kinneret” (“Yonder are the Golan Mountains”), “Sad Song” (“Do You Hear My Voice”), “Sealed Garden”, “Gift”, and others. Many of her poems have been set to music and were performed posthumously by Israel’s leading artists. Over the years they have become indispensable pillars of Israeli culture and poetry.

The design of the new 20 NIS banknote evokes Bluwstein’s poetry and the landscapes of her life. The obverse bears her portrait against a background of palm fronds, besides which in microlettering is the poem “Kinneret”—the inspiration for the design of the banknote’s reverse.

The reverse depicts a landscape from the Sea of Galilee, the lake of which Rachel wrote many poems and on whose shores she wished to be buried. In addition, the reverse bears an excerpt from “Perhaps it Never Happened…”: “O my Kinneret, Were you, Or was I dreaming?”

The 100 NIS note depicts Leah Goldberg.

LEAH GOLDBERG (1911-1970)

Goldberg was one of Israel’s most important and outstanding poetesses. She also wrote fiction and plays, translated, edited, taught, wrote critiques and engaged in research.

She was born in Kӧnigsberg, Prussia (in present-day Russia) and grew up in Kaunas, Lithuania. She completed her doctoral thesis in 1933 in Semitic linguistics and in 1935 immigrated to Palestine.

Goldberg’s poetry is contemplative and her language is clear. Her works deal with intimate, personal issues and include descriptions of Israeli and European landscapes. Much of Goldberg’s work deals with the legacy from her life in Europe and with the Holocaust and its impact on her generation. Many of her poems have been set to music, among them “Is It True?”, “Atonement”, “The Love of Theresa di Meun” (“From My Window and Yours”), “Evening Opposite the Gilead” (“The Trees Are So Heavy”) and “The Hyacinth’s Song”.

Goldberg wrote and edited numerous children’s books. Among the most well-known are “Apartment for Rent”, “The Absent-Minded Man from Kfar Azar”, and “Where is Pluto”. Besides writing, Goldberg was involved in numerous related pursuits. She translated classics from world literature, including Tolstoy, Chekhov, Shakespeare and Ibsen. She also edited newspapers and children’s books, taught, and served as professor of general and comparative literature at Hebrew University. Goldberg’s writings earned her the Rubin Prize in 1949, and in 1970—posthumously—she was awarded the Israel Prize for belles-lettres.

The obverse of the new 100 NIS banknote bears Goldberg’s portrait against a background of almond blossoms, beside which in micro-lettering is the poem entitled “In the Land of my Love the Almond Tree is Blooming.”

The reverse depicts a group of does—the inspiration for her poem “What Do the Does Do?” which is also the name of her first children’s book. The reverse also contains an excerpt from the poem “White Days, As Long As the Summer Rays of the Sun.”

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