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Marking Mideast History with New Coins
On May 14, 2018, President Donald Trump made good on a campaign promise of moving the United States Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The move marked the first time that a foreign country had an embassy in Jerusalem since 2006 and the first other than Costa Rica and El Salvador since 1980, when the United Nations Security Council passed resolution 478 calling on countries with embassies in Jerusalem to move them in response to the passage of the Basic Law on Jerusalem, the Capital of Israel, by the Israeli Knesset. Criticized by some as a move that could hamper Israeli-Palestinian talks on the final status of Jerusalem but heralded by others as recognition of Israel’s right to determine its own capital, the move is one of the most significant in Israel’s seventy-year history, the anniversary of which was the day on which the Jerusalem embassy was officially opened.
To mark the occasion, the Israeli Mikdash Educational Center announced that it would mark the occasion with the release of new coins. The coins feature images of President Trump alongside King Cyrus the Great. Two of the coins share the same design, while a third, a Biblical half-shekel, features a unique one. While they are being issued as coins and have face values, the coins do not have legal tender status.
The smallest of the coins is the half-shekel, of which 1000 will be released. This coin features left-side profiles of President Trump and Cyrus the Great. The words “TEMPLE COIN” are inscribed below the portraits, while inscriptions fill the rim. They read, “CYRUS – BALFOUR – TRUMP DECLARATION 1917-2017,” with inscriptions in Hebrew included below. “Balfour” references the Balfour Declaration, which was a communication from British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour on behalf of the British government conveying that government’s support for a Jewish state in Palestine. It was addressed to Lord Rothschild, who was asked to share it with the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland.
The other two coins share the same designs. The standard issue is struck from pewter and plated in 10 grams of silver. A limited run of 700 pieces will be plated in gold.
The obverse of these coins bears four designs. At the top is a menorah, an ancient symbol of Israel. Below the menorah are a pair of overlapping portraits of President Donald Trump and Cyrus the Great. Joining them are an ancient symbol of Persia to the left and the seal of the President of the United States to the right. Large inscriptions in English and Hebrew read “TO FULFILL 70 YEARS,” while rim inscriptions in the same languages read, “AND HE CHARGED ME TO BUILD HIM A HOUSE IN JERUSALEM,” which comes from Cyrus’s proclamation in the Bible. The reverse features a dove, a Biblical symbol from Genesis and Isiah, carrying an olive branch as it flies to the Temple. “THE TEMPLE COIN” is inscribed below, while “LIKE DOVES TO THEIR NEST, ISIAH 60, 8” is inscribed along the rim.
The coins are rich in symbolism and tell stories that date back thousands of years. Perhaps the strongest symbolism is the parallels drawn between President Trump and Cyrus the Great. Cyrus reigned as King of Persia from 559-530 BC and King of Babylon from 539-530 BC. Cyrus was often referred to as “Father,” not only by those in his own kingdom but also among the nations that he conquered. The Babylonians and Jews both considered him a liberator, and he is quoted in Ezra 1:2 saying, “All the kingdoms of the earth hath the Lord, the God of heaven, given me; and He hath charged me to build Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah.” That and an ensuing passage indicate that Cyrus wanted a temple constructed in Jerusalem and for the Jews to control the city.
President Trump’s decision to move the American embassy to Jerusalem is seen by many as an affirmation of Cyrus’s declaration. First and foremost, many see it as a recognition of Jerusalem as a Jewish city rather than a shared or international one. Second, and perhaps most importantly, some perceive it to be a necessary step toward the construction of the Third Temple.
The Temple has long been at the center of the Jewish religion. The first one was constructed by King Solomon nearly 1000 years before the birth of Christ and subsequently destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar II following the 587 BC Siege of Jerusalem. It was then reconstructed in 516 BC and destroyed in 70 AD by the Romans in response to a Jewish revolt. For millions of Jews, the construction of the Third Temple and the resumption of traditional sacrifices is necessary to usher in the Messiah. Some Christians also interpret the construction of the Third Temple as being necessary for the return of Jesus Christ.
President Trump’s decision is already proving consequential as other countries, mainly American allies in the Americas, are following suit. Guatemala moved its embassy on Tuesday, May 15, two days after the Americans did, and other countries, including Honduras and Paraguay, have already indicated their intentions to do the same. The U.S. has also received some support in Europe, where Czech President Milos Zeman has expressed his desire to move his country’s embassy to Jerusalem and has blocked a European Union statement of opposition to the American president’s decision.
How much of an impact President Trump’s decision will have and what that impact will be over the long term remain to be seen. What seems certain already, though, is that the move is one of the most significant in the history of the world’s most disputed city. Fortunately, the Mikdash Educational Center now gives collectors the chance to mark the occasion with some new coins.
||Sean McConeghy is a freelance writer and network marketer living in Roatan, Honduras. He originally hails from New York and specializes in writing about numismatics, real estate, and politics.|