8. Zionist shekel

This small map of ‘The Land of Israel’ including the Transjordanian areas and indicating Jewish settlements is printed on the back of a ‘zionist shekel’. The word shekel refers to a monetary unit from the period of the First Temple in Jerusalem.
This is a 1920 receipt for the membership fee of the Zionist Mizrachi movement in Poland. The movement was established in Vilnius in 1902 by Rabbi Yitzchak Ya’acov Reines and based on the slogan: ‘Am Yisra’el be-Eretz Yisra’el al-pi Torat Yisra’el - The Jewish people in the land of Israel according to the Torah of Israel’.

Whereas most rabbis in eastern and western Europe rejected Herzl’s political Zionism, Rabbi Reines saw God’s hand in the imminent return of the Jewish people to a modern Zion. In 1917 the British Balfour Declaration strengthened this belief, as it nurtured the hope of a Jewish national home in Palestine. The Talmud school curriculum therefore had to be improved to train Jews materially and morally for their return.

Every Jew of 18 and over could buy a shekel and every male Jew over 21 could be elected to the Zionist Congress. The number of Mizrachi representatives was based on the number of shekalim sold in each country. Mizrachi became the most important branch of the Zionist movement in Russia and, under Rabbi Isaac Nissenbaum, was to play a prominent role in Poland.

Zionist Mizrachi Movement in Poland, Map of ‘The Land of Israel’, 1920

Zionist shekel