Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Funny Money in Israel (Counterfeit Coins)

If you're living in Israel or thinking of making Aliyah - or just coming through for a holiday - don't assume that just because it's the Holyland that everything is Kosher! Of course it should be that way... but sometimes it's simply not!

I remember the days of going to Ulpan. I was new to getting into Israeli culture, and one thing that got to me was when in those very first few weeks I was bombarded with a number of counterfeit 10 shekel coins. I pointed this out to my Ulpan teacher who practically swore to me that such things don't exist in Israel and could never be! It didn't help that I actually had the evidence - because in her books she was already convinced that no such thing existed! 

As she told me - she had never handled such a coin in her life - and she was over 60. So maybe it's just an Oleh Chadash thing - kind of like a "disease" that cleaves to those making the move. Or maybe it only reaches those who don't yet know Hebrew. I'm not sure which one, but I've finally got around to photographing one of these coins - which I just so happened to pick up recently (again!) and remind myself to once again get back into the good habit of checking EVERY single coin I receive from another - no matter if he works for Egged or the Eida HaChareidit!

I've photographed the invalid coin with others and then presented it by itself to help you become aware of how to spot these false items. Remember, by law, if you've been given one of these special editions, you're not entitled to use it - so it's simply your bad luck. You best go into your local bank and hand it to them for destroying. If you've been handed tens or hundreds of these coins, it's simply your fault - so says the law! Remember the original criminal will not be held liable for the false coin - you will. So do watch out before accepting these coins. They are in fact - VERY common!

In our first picture below, you'll see 5 of these 10 Shekel coins.(I sure miss Golda Meir!) Can you spot the fraud?! 

It's the middle coin. Take a closer look. You'll notice it's a lot less shiny than the others. In addition, if you look at the outer surrounding edges of it, you'll feel a more plastic-like feel. And the best test yet?! Give it a good spin on a smooth table as it appears in the photo above. If it spins... and spins... and spins... it's a fraud! Try spinning an original 10 Shekel coin as it rests on the table as in the photo above and you'll see that it won't spin more than half a turn.

Our photo below shows the back of the coin. Again, notice how it lacks the shine of the other coins.

In the photo below, you can see the back of a true 10 shekel coin. It's shiny, and the text surrounding it is clear! You can see that every letter has been carved out.

The photo below shows the same coin right side up. It's clear, strong and shiny!

Now for the fraud (and the remembrance of a loss of lunch!) You'll see the back of the coin is smoothed on the sides and the lettering has not been carved out completely. It's almost lying flat on the surface. The coin is also not completely circular, but rather a little off shape. It's also not shiny! In fact it's completely dull!

It's not as easy to see the fraud from the front. But close attention to the detail will show the bronze section not fitting in perfectly to the silver, the text not carved out clearly, and a slight distortion to its shape.

So, don't be fooled. You'll find counterfeit money - even in Israel. Be on the lookout and check every single coin you get before putting it away. You see, if you do this, you'll at least be able to own the money you really have earned honestly! But if you don't check, you may find that even after having worked hard to earn your 10 shekel - you'll end up with absolutely nothing except a legal bother to have to take your coin to the bank, wait your turn like everyone else, deal with some pushing, shoving and shouting for the day - and finally hand over the offending item to be destroyed!

If you're the merciful type and have gained from this article, remember, you're welcome to help so that I can regain my opportunity to eat another lunch! Take a look at Lovingkindness - our site devoted to helping many Jews, and feel free to make a contribution of just 10 shekels by clicking on any of the donate buttons found there. Just type in your reason for the donation, "Compensating an Oleh Chadash for being swindled!"

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Only in a Religious Neighbourhood in Israel…

Is anybody in the "frum" world really working on themselves? Finding oneself in a place like Israel and travelling on buses regularly (amongst other close-contact "sports" in Israel) can make one wonder if anybody actually cares about the other. If you've been lucky enough to travel on an Israeli Egged bus or the like, you'll probably have fond memories of people pushing, shouting and yelling (Ah… there's no place like home!) You'll probably remember the good times of the bus driver even punching a hole in your bus ticket two or three times (by accident of course!) or punching a hole in a "combined city" ticket on the wrong side (causing you to forfeit your entire two-way ride!)

And then of course, you may remember the good times of having asked a bus driver to please tell you when a particular stop is (so that you could get off course!) and found yourself to be the last person on the bus with the driver reaching his final point and now asking you to please get off (only without using such pleasant language.) Should you ask why he never mentioned anything about your real stop (that you had asked him to let you know about) he may come back with a variety of excuses, all told over in that special Israeli talk – which can often sound like shouting to those coming from many other countries.

It's all in the name of real Jewish friendship of course! 

What of those who go home that night – only to think over about their days – and realise that maybe they actually were in the wrong?! What would they do?! What would be the chances of meeting up with the person they had "bumped" into on the bus that day – or even meeting the driver to perhaps apologise for having shouted at him?! And what of the driver having realised that perhaps he had actually done something wrong?! In fact, the Chofetz Chaim teaches a similar idea when it comes to having spoken badly about another in public. One can never really do Teshuva – repentance – because one would be required to find every person who heard the bad talk – and let them know that one had erred – a practically impossible task!

Living in the religious area of Beitar Illit does every now and again provide some very important life lessons for us all, and as I opened the weekly "Shavua Tov" magazine (which is sent free of charge to all residents of Beitar – sponsored by the advertisers) I noticed something I've probably never seen in my life before. The person had taken out an advert costing some 300-500 shekel (about $90) to share something with the entire city. It read:


On Wednesday 28 Shevat at about 3:30
on bus 1, I embarrassed a person on the bus
It was clear that I made a mistake in calculating the change
I request forgiveness
And I hope that no other mistake will come through me again

The Driver"

As I read that last line in particular, it made me aware of something truly unique about the greatness of a Jew – a bus driver – who is focused on growth, focused on Torah – because Beitar Illit is in fact a Torah city. What lead to the initial mistake and how the driver did not check and double check before embarrassing the passenger – I don't know. But it was that after-the-fact behaviour that caught my attention in this particular case!

It's something that seems to only happen in a city filled with Jews – where even the bus drivers are Torah scholars. Where even after an event such as this – they can think over matters again, and realise that they may have been in the wrong (perhaps just over a few aggarot) – and who can then be prepared and actually do so – to pay for an advert costing some 300-500 shekel – in order to ask forgiveness from someone they may never see again!

When last did you see such an advert in your local newspaper? When last were you ever prepared to post such an advert if you'd ever hurt anyone?!

Such is the greatness of Torah and the greatness of a Jew and the beauty of Israel.


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