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Beit Midrash Jewish Laws and Thoughts Serving Hashem, Mitzvot and Repentance

Tossing A Coin

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Part of the Arab narrative about Israel is that somehow the Jews were never in the country until the nineteenth century. The anti- Semites all chant "Let them all go back to Europe." Arafat amazed Bill Clinton when he brazenly denied that there ever was a Jewish Temple on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem. The textbooks used in the Palestinian schools all deny Jewish existence in the Land of Israel prior to Herzl and the rise of political Zionism.

By repeating this patently false narrative over and over again the Arabs have convinced themselves that the Jews are Johnny-come-lately interlopers into the Land of Israel and that the Jews have no legitimate claim to their homeland and territories.

As long as this narrative is continued and reinforced it is difficult to see how any form of any peace process and settlement of the Israeli-Arab dispute can be achieved. Fantastic denials and distortions of historical facts only lead to further confrontation and eventual violence. As long as the accurate picture, not only of current events but of past happenings, is not recognized by the parties to the dispute it will defy logic and reality to expect any long lasting solutions to emerge from any types of conferences, meetings, plans and proposals, no matter how well-intentioned their promoters may be.

And the core of this correct understanding of past events and of history is that the Jews lived and settled in the Land of Israel millennia before Islam and the Arabs arrived on the scene. Our claim to the land is not based on the Holocaust (Obama’s famous error in his Cairo speech) or on United Nations resolutions (Israel’s continuing diplomatic error) but on the fact that the Jews settled the Land of Israel at the time of Joshua and have had a continuous association with the Land of Israel ever since.

Over Simchat Torah I spent some time studying the book of Ezra. I used the Daat Mikra edition published by Mosad Harav Kook to review and understand the text. One of the most fascinating things about that edition of the book is the wealth of seals, shards, and coins of First and Second Temple times that appear in that rather slim volume.

I was particularly struck (no pun intended) by the book’s reproductions of the ancient coins of the Jewish state in those times. I realized again - or maybe it was the first time that I really realized it - that all of the coins in circulation in modern day Israel are replicas of ancient coins used by Jews in the Land of Israel thousands of years ago.

The harp on our half shekel coin is the same harp that appeared on coins and seals in First Temple times. The lulav and etrog that appear on the one shekel coin today appeared on the shekel in Temple times as well. The crown and capital on the five shekel coin also appeared on coins in Temple times as did the date palm tree that today is represented on our ten shekel coin.

Somehow my realization of this continuity of Jewish life in the Land of Israel as represented on our coins invigorated me and made me proud. It connected a lot of dots to me and reaffirmed again our narrative of the bond between the people of Israel and the Land of Israel.

These coins will do little to convince our enemies of the justice of Israel’s cause. But they certainly are valuable in convincing us Jews of the justice of our cause. Ignorance and self-hatred abound in an assimilated Jewish world that worships the idols and ideals of current political correctness and faddish mores. If we do not know and believe our own story and of our right to live in the Land of Israel there is little reason to hope that others will somehow believe it.

When I was a small child I noticed that my father would save the postage stamp from letters that he received from his family in British mandated Palestine. He explained to me, based on the stamps, what the Tower of David and the Temple Mount as represented on the stamps meant to Jews and what they should mean to me. I believe that this was the first history lesson that I then absorbed in my young life.

The power of those postage stamps helped shape my life and attitudes and eventually my future. The same thing is true of our Israeli monetary coins. They are not just legal tender in the market place. They are our story and the narrative of our rights and attachment to the Land of Israel.
Rabbi Dov Berl Wein
The rabbi of the "HANASI" congregation in Yerushalim, head of the Destiny foundation, former head of the OU, Rosh Yeshiva of 'sharai Tora" and rabbi of the "Beit Tora" congregation, Monsey, New York.
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