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Israel Business & Economy: The Shekel

Shekel is a biblical term referring to a unit of weight used for currency and is the name of Israel's modern currency.

The shekel as a unit of currency is known as early as the second millennium BCE when it is recorded in the Bible that Abraham negotiated the purchase of a field "and a cave that was therein," at Machpela in Hebron. The Torah records Abraham saying:

"I will give thee money for the field; take it of me, and I will bury my dead there. Ephron, the land-owner, replied: the land is worth four hundred shekels of silver... and Abraham weighed to Ephron… four hundred shekels of silver, current money with the merchant." (Genesis 23:13, 15-17)

In 1969, the government of Israel voted to change the name of the country's currency from the Israel lira to the shekel and on January 1, 1986, the new Israeli shekel (NIS) replaced the old shekel.

Today, the new Israeli shekel consists of 100 agorot and has coinage denominations of 10 agorot, 1/2 shekel (50 agorot), 1 shekel, 2 shekalim, 5 shekalim and 10 shekalim. Shekel banknotes are issued in denominations of 20 shekalim, 50 shekalim, 100 shekalim and 200 shekalim.

Sources: Israeli Foreign Ministry; Wikipedia; Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.