a little coin can tell you much about the world. it might teach you more about the world than what you can learn in the classroom.
this is particularly important with the various ethnic studies programs are cropping up in various california school districts. these programs have been condemned for attempting to promote both anti-semitism and hatred of the state of israel. the programs have been accused of portraying israel as both an apartheid and colonial state. how can a small coin raise questions whether the nation is a colonial state?
the small coin, a quarter shekel, was a great archeological find. the coin tells the story of the ancient jewish nation that was on the verge of extinction. the coin tells a story of what happened right before the people’s diaspora from their country after its conquest by the roman empire.
the shekel currency dates back to the bible. the shekel is mentoned in the torah, or the five books of moses. section exodus 30:11-16, states “the lord spoke to moses, saying: when you take the sum of the children of israel according to their numbers, let each one give to the lord an atonement for his soul when they are counted; then there will be no plague among them when they are counted. this they shall give, everyone who goes through the counting: half a shekel according to the holy shekel. twenty gerahs equal one shekel; half of [such] a shekel shall be an offering to the lord. everyone who goes through the counting, from the age of twenty and upward, shall give an offering to the lord. the rich shall give no more, and the poor shall give no less than half a shekel, with which to give the offering to the lord, to atone for your souls. you shall take the silver of the atonements from the children of israel and use it for the work of the tent of meeting; it shall be a remembrance for the children of israel before the lord, to atone for your souls.”
the shekel was both used as money and was collected as a tax. the currency was tied into religious practice. thus, shekels, to the people, meant something more than money to purchase services or goods. this written text dates back to 250 bce or older. the actual composition date of the text is something of scholarly debate. there are many opinions that have been expressed.
the archeological find was a 2000 year old silver quarter shekel. at some point, it had been smuggled out of israel. through significant efforts, the coin was located and the individual in possession handed over the coin to the israel antiquities authority. timesisrael.com
the coin was minted in the year 69. the coin had been minted in the 4th year of the jewish revolt against the invading romans. this took took place between the years 66 to 73. it is reported that the rare silver coin was minted by the jewish rebels in defiance of the romans. timesisrael.com
the israel antiquities authority noted “this is a historic achievement for the state of israel and for the preservation of its cultural heritage assets, as this is only the second time they were ever looted and smuggled out of israel [and then] were returned to the state” zamir called the coin “a stark reminder of the jewish people’s millennia-old connection to the land of israel.”timesisrael.com
in sum, the coin documents the time in which the world’s superpower, rome, conquered the jewish nation. this conquest led to the jewish people in a large part leaving their land. it was in 1948, that the modern jewish nation be established, 1879 years after the coin had been minted. ethnic studies programs discussing israel as a colonial state should take into consideration the jewish people’s historical connection to the land. if these prograams are are not addressing these facts as illuminated by this coin, one must wonder if education is their true goal.
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