Israel Currency (Israeli New Shekel History + Facts)

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The official currency of Israel is the Israeli new shekel (ILS), which replaced the old Israeli pound in 1985. The shekel is abbreviated as “₪” and is divided into 100 agorot.

Israel New Shekel

The shekel is a relatively stable currency, and its exchange rate has remained relatively consistent in recent years. It comes in denomination of ₪20, ₪50, ₪100, ₪200 for banknotes and 10 agorot, ₪1⁄2, ₪1, ₪2, ₪5, ₪10 for coins.

This article explores the history of the Israeli New Shekel, providing insight into its evolution, design, and cultural significance within the nation’s economic landscape.

Historical Journey of Israel Currency

Israel has had a long and complex history with its currency.

The first official currency of Israel was the Israeli pound, also known as the “lira” in Hebrew, which was in circulation from June 1952 until February 1980. The Israeli pound replaced the Palestine pound, which was the currency used during the British Mandate period.

In February 1980, the Israeli shekel replaced the Israeli pound as the official currency of Israel. The shekel was introduced to stabilize the economy and combat hyperinflation. The original shekel, now known as the old shekel, was in circulation from February 1980 until December 1985.

Both the Israeli pound and the old shekel experienced frequent devaluations against foreign currencies during the 1960s and 1970s. This led to the introduction of the new shekel in 1985, which is still the official currency of Israel today.

The new shekel has been a strong and stable currency, widely accepted both within Israel and internationally. It is divided into 100 agorot, and its symbol is ₪. The Bank of Israel is responsible for the issuance and regulation of the new shekel.

Over the years, Israel has issued a variety of banknotes and coins, each with its own unique design and history. The banknotes feature images of prominent Israeli figures, landmarks, and symbols, while the coins feature images of flora and fauna found in Israel.

The historical journey of Israel’s currency reflects the country’s economic and political history, and serves as an important symbol of its identity and culture.

History of Coins

In 1985, Israel introduced coins in denominations including 1 agora, 5 agorot, 10 agorot, 1/2 shekel, and 1 shekel. Later, 5 shekel coins were added in 1990, and 10 shekel coins in 1995. 

The 1 agora coin production stopped in 1990 and was withdrawn from circulation in 1991. A 2 shekel coin was introduced in 2007. The last minting of the 5 agorot coin was in 2007, and it was removed from circulation in 2008.

In 2011, Israel planned to mint new coins with less metal to reduce costs and enhance security against counterfeiting. The Bank of Israel considered removing the word “new” from the coin series, marking the first major change since the new shekel coins were introduced in 1985. The coins are produced by the Korea Minting and Security Printing Corporation (KOMSCO).

In 2022, the Bank of Israel announced a new series with updated inscriptions, changing “new sheqalim” to “new shekels” on the coins. The first coins to feature the new inscriptions would be the 5 and 10 new shekel coins, with 10 agorot and 1/2 new shekel coins also including unit names in Arabic.

The current series of new shekel coins features various designs and inscriptions, including historical and cultural symbols. For example, the 1 shekel coin displays a lily and the word “Yehud” in ancient Hebrew. 

The 2 shekel coin has two cornucopias, and the 10 shekel coin features a palm tree with seven leaves and two baskets with dates. All coin dates are in the Hebrew calendar and written in Hebrew numerals.

History of Bills

Israel introduced its first series of banknotes, Series A, between 1985 and 1999 with denominations ranging from ₪1 to ₪200. Early banknotes like the ₪1, ₪5, and ₪10 were eventually replaced by coins, featuring images of the individuals from the notes.

Series B was launched in 1999, with banknotes issued until 2017. This series included denominations of ₪20, ₪50, ₪100, and ₪200. A special ₪20 note was made of polymer to commemorate 60 years of the State of Israel, enhancing its lifespan compared to regular paper notes. Plans for a ₪500 note to honor Yitzhak Rabin were not realized due to low inflation.

Series C, introduced starting from 2014, showcases prominent Hebrew poets on the denominations of ₪20, ₪50, ₪100, and ₪200. 

This series marked a shift in the English and Arabic spelling of “shekel” on banknotes, aligning with standard English spelling. These notes are known for featuring literary figures and cultural symbols, enhancing the cultural significance of the currency. The notes are printed in Switzerland and include advanced security features.

Inflation and Buying Power of Israel Currency

Israel has a history of high inflation rates, which have affected the buying power of the Israeli currency. In the past, inflation rates in Israel have been above the current 2% international norm, at times very much above, which has led to a decrease in the value of the currency.

However, in recent years, Israel has been able to maintain low inflation rates, which has led to an increase in the buying power of the currency.

According to Reuters, the Bank of Israel has been able to maintain low inflation rates, with inflation at 2.5% in 2021. This has led to an increase in the value of the Israeli currency, which has made it more attractive to investors. The strong shekel has also made imports cheaper, which has helped to keep inflation rates low.

Despite the low inflation rates, Israel still faces challenges in maintaining the value of its currency. As Haaretz reports, a strong shekel can negatively impact the Israeli economy by making exports less price-competitive overseas and reducing corporate profits.

However, the Bank of Israel has announced up to $30 billion USD of forex purchases for 2021 to help maintain the value of the currency.

Israel has been able to maintain low inflation rates, which has led to an increase in the buying power of the Israeli currency. However, the country still faces challenges in maintaining the value of the currency, and the Bank of Israel has taken steps to help manage the situation.

Israeli New Shekel

The Third Series of the New Shekel banknotes in Israel showcases the country’s esteemed Hebrew poets, each note adorned with unique colors and designs. Launched between 2014 and 2017, these notes pay homage to their literary achievements. 


The ₪20 note, red in color, features Rachel Bluwstein and her poem “Kinneret” alongside an image of the Sea of Galilee. 


The green ₪50 note celebrates Shaul Tchernichovsky with his poem “Oh, My Land, My Homeland,” set against a backdrop of a citrus tree. 


Leah Goldberg graces the orange ₪100 note, with her poem about almond tree blossoms, complemented by an illustration of gazelles. 


Lastly, the blue ₪200 note is dedicated to Nathan Alterman, featuring his poem “Eternal Meeting” and an image of moonlit flora. 

Currency Usage in Israel

When traveling to Israel, it’s important to understand the currency usage to make your trip as smooth as possible. The official currency of Israel is the Israeli new shekel (NIS), which is abbreviated as ₪. The shekel is divided into 100 agorot.

Is USD accepted in Israel?

While some hotels, restaurants, and taxis may accept payment in US dollars, it’s not recommended to rely on this as their exchange rate will not be in your favor.

It’s best to exchange your money for shekels at an official currency exchange booth or bank. Most major credit cards are widely accepted in Israel, so it’s also a good idea to carry one with you for larger purchases.

When exchanging your currency, keep in mind that the exchange rates can vary between different exchange booths and banks. It’s a good idea to shop around for the best rate before exchanging your money.

Additionally, it’s important to note that some businesses may not accept bills with tears or damage, so make sure to exchange your money for crisp bills.

To make your transactions easier, it’s recommended to carry small bills and coins with you as some businesses may not have change for larger bills. It’s also important to keep an eye on your money and be aware of any potential scams or counterfeit bills.

Overall, understanding the currency usage in Israel can make your trip more enjoyable and stress-free. By exchanging your money for shekels and carrying a credit card, you’ll be prepared for all your purchases and transactions during your visit.

Exchanging Currency in Israel

If you’re traveling to Israel, you’ll need to exchange your currency to Israeli new shekels (ILS). Here are some things to know before you exchange your currency in Israel.

Where can I exchange Israeli currency?

You can exchange your currency at banks, exchange offices, or hotels in Israel. Banks generally offer the most competitive exchange rates, but they may charge a commission or have limited hours of operation. Exchange offices and hotels may have more flexible hours and no commission, but they may offer less favorable exchange rates.

It’s important to note that some exchange offices may advertise “commission-free” exchanges, but they may have hidden fees or unfavorable exchange rates. Always compare the exchange rates and fees before exchanging your currency.

What to know before exchanging currency in Israel

Exchange rates fluctuate daily, so it’s important to check the current exchange rates before exchanging your currency. You can check the current exchange rates online or at the bank/exchange office.

Banks and exchange offices may charge fees and commissions for currency exchange. Always ask about the fees and commissions before exchanging your currency.

You’ll also need to provide a valid passport or ID when exchanging currency at a bank or exchange office.

ATMs are widely available in Israel, and they offer competitive exchange rates. However, some ATMs may charge a withdrawal fee or foreign transaction fee. Check with your bank before using an ATM in Israel.

Most hotels, restaurants, and shops in Israel accept credit cards, especially Visa and Mastercard. However, some smaller businesses may only accept cash. It’s always a good idea to have some cash on hand.

In summary, exchanging currency in Israel is easy and convenient, but it’s important to compare exchange rates and fees before exchanging your currency. Banks generally offer the most competitive exchange rates, but exchange offices and hotels may offer more flexible hours. Always bring a valid ID and be aware of any fees or commissions.

Choosing Between USD and Israel Currency

When traveling to Israel, you may be wondering whether to use US dollars or the Israeli currency, the shekel. Here are some factors to consider when making your decision.

Exchange Rate

The exchange rate between USD and ILS fluctuates daily, so it’s important to check the current rate before making any transactions. While the rate may seem favorable, keep in mind that exchange rates can change quickly and unexpectedly.


Using the local currency is generally more convenient than using a foreign currency. Most businesses in Israel, including restaurants, shops, and public transportation, accept shekels. Some businesses may accept USD, but they may give you a less favorable exchange rate or charge additional fees.

It’s also important to note that ATMs in Israel dispense shekels, so if you plan on using cash, it’s best to withdraw shekels from an ATM.


When exchanging currency, you may encounter fees from banks, exchange bureaus, or credit card companies. These fees can add up quickly, especially if you’re exchanging large amounts of money. It’s important to compare fees from different sources and choose the option that offers the best rate and lowest fees.


Here are some tips to consider when choosing between USD and ILS:

  • If you plan on using cash, withdraw shekels from an ATM to avoid unfavorable exchange rates and fees.
  • If you plan on using a credit card, check with your bank or credit card company to see if they charge foreign transaction fees.
  • Keep in mind that exchange rates can change quickly, so it’s best to exchange money as needed rather than in large amounts.

By considering these factors, you can make an informed decision about whether to use USD or ILS during your trip to Israel.

Cost of Living in Israel

If you plan to visit or live in Israel, it is important to understand the cost of living in the country. The cost of living in Israel is generally higher than in most countries in the world. However, the cost of living varies depending on the city you live in and your lifestyle.

According to Expatistan, a single person’s estimated monthly costs in Israel is $2,844 (10,395 ₪), while a family of four’s estimated monthly costs without rent is $3,686.8 (13,534.3₪).

The most expensive living item in Israel is rent, especially in major cities like Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. In Tel Aviv, the average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the city center is around 5,000-7,000 ILS (~$1385 – $1940 USD), while a three-bedroom apartment can cost around 10,000-15,000 ILS (~$2770 – $4160 USD).

Other expenses, such as food, transportation, and entertainment, are generally reasonable. A meal at an inexpensive restaurant costs around 50-60 ILS (~$13 USD), while a mid-range three-course meal for two costs around 250-300 ILS (~$76 USD). Public transportation is affordable, with a one-way ticket costing around 6-7 ILS (~$1.70 USD).

If you plan to visit Israel, it is important to budget accordingly. Make sure to research the cost of living in the city you plan to visit and plan your expenses accordingly. If you plan to live in Israel, it is important to find a balance between your lifestyle and your expenses.

Don’t Get Scammed Tips

When traveling to a foreign country, it’s important to be aware of the currency exchange rates and potential scams. Israel is no exception. Here are some tips to avoid getting scammed when exchanging currency in Israel:

1. Avoid exchanging currency at the airport

Exchanging currency at the airport might seem like a convenient option, but it’s usually the most expensive. Exchange rates at the airport are typically much higher than rates at banks or exchange offices in the city. If possible, wait until you reach the city to exchange your currency.

2. Use reputable exchange offices or banks

When exchanging currency, it’s important to use reputable exchange offices or banks. Look for offices that display their exchange rates clearly and have a good reputation. Avoid exchanging money with street vendors or individuals who approach you on the street.

3. Check the exchange rate before exchanging currency

Before exchanging currency, check the current exchange rate to ensure you’re getting a fair deal. You can check the current exchange rate online or by using a currency exchange app. Keep in mind that exchange rates fluctuate throughout the day, so it’s a good idea to check the rate multiple times before exchanging your money.

4. Count your money before leaving the exchange office

Once you’ve exchanged your currency, count your money before leaving the exchange office. Make sure the amount you received matches the amount you expected. If you notice any discrepancies, bring it to the attention of the exchange office immediately.

5. Be cautious when using ATMs

ATMs are a convenient way to withdraw cash, but they can also be a target for fraudsters. When using an ATM, be aware of your surroundings and cover the keypad when entering your PIN. If the ATM looks suspicious or has any unusual devices attached to it, don’t use it.

By following these tips, you can avoid getting scammed when exchanging currency in Israel. Remember to always be vigilant and use common sense when dealing with money.

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