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History & Archeology

Coins from the time of Jerusalem’s destruction Uncovered


Coins from the destruction of Jerusalem 2,000 years ago were recently discovered and revealed to the world by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) just before Thursday’s Tisga B’av fast. Tisha B’av is a day when Jews around the world mourn the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple by the Romans.

One coin was a silver half-shekel with three pomegranates on one side and a chalice on the other with the words “Holy Jerusalem” inscribed on it. The IAA dated the coin to sometime in 66 or 67 CE. This was the time of the Judean revolt against Rome, which lasted from 66 to 70 C.E.

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It is said to have been used for paying the half-shekel tax the Bible requires every Jew to pay for the expenses of maintaining the Temple and the altar for sacrifices. It is first referred to in the Bible when the Israelites were commanded to donate the funds to build the first altar when wandering in the Sinai desert.

Yaniv David Levy, a numismatic scholar with the Israel Antiquities Authority, said, Coins from the first year of the revolt, such as this from Jerusalem that was discovered in the Judean Desert, are rare.

The tax for the Temple was still in effect in Jerusalem at the time of the revolt. “During the time of the Second Temple, pilgrims used to pay a tax of half a shekel to the Temple,” explained Yaniv David Levy. “The accepted currency for paying this tax for almost 2,000 years was the Tyrian shekel. When the revolt broke out, the rebels issued, as mentioned, these replacement coins which bore the inscriptions ‘Israel shekel,’ ‘half shekel’ and ‘quarter shekel.’ It seems that the worship of the Temple continued even during the rebellion, and these coins were also used by the rebels for this purpose.”

A second coin uncovered was revealed by the City of David on Thursday, Tisha B’av day. “For the freedom of Zion” was inscribed on it, so it is believed that this coin was minted by the people when they rebelled against the Romans. It also had a small hole pierced, so experts believe it was likely worn as ornamentation.

Yaniv David Levy, who also worked on this coin, explained that such coins had no economic value and were probably kept as souvenirs.



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