The State of Israel is only 64 years old, but it has had three different currencies - the lira, which replaced the Eretz Israel lira; then the old shekel; and then in 1985, the new shekel. Now, 26 years after that last change, the Bank of Israel is considering changing the name of the country’s currency once again, in 2013, when it issues a new series of banknotes. The new currency will probably be called the Israeli shekel.
“You can’t say that a 30-year-old currency is new,” says a source at the Bank of Israel. “The intent is to convey stability, something the name ‘new shekel’ does not do. Issuing new banknotes, a significant change that happens only every 10-15 years, gives us a window of opportunity.”
This is yet another incarnation of Israelis’ tendency to dismantle symbols, says sociologist Prof. Oz Almog of the University of Haifa.
“There are several things that typify Israeli culture, one of which is our tendency to constantly change things,” says Almog. “Take children’s names: Every generation here has a new series of names, unlike other societies. These are the dynamics of a society in constant flux. It’s dynamic, but we don’t preserve tradition. There’s no stability or respect for tradition. In European societies, or in ancient Hebrew societies, names were traditions handed down from one generation to the next. We don’t preserve houses either - we build and dismantle. We do the same to national symbols.
“Of course, this is a reflection of the past economic instability. It also likely reflects the lack of long-term planning. We run on impulses, and that’s why the thinking is always short-term. Now our currency has one name, and tomorrow it will be called something else. Just pick a name and stick to it. It’s very confusing, and attests to the public sector’s non-user-friendly attitude.”
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