Israel News

Ancient Judean “Rebel Coin” Discovered in Desert near Jerusalem

See the 2,000-year-old coin made by Judean Rebels, discovered near Jerusalem!

Right as Israel and Jewish communities around the world commemorated the destruction of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple on Tisha B’Av a few days ago, Israeli archeologists have announced the discovery of a rare Jewish coin that was minted and used by the very Judean rebels who fought against the Roman siege those 2,000 years ago towards the end of the Second Temple period!

The Discovery

The 2,000-year-old coin discovered in a cave in the Judean desert, with three pomegranates and the words “Holy Jerusalem” in ancient Hebrew script (Photo credit: Emil Aladjem/IAA)


As Israeli archeologists recently surveyed the Judean desert in hopes of finding more Dead Sea Scrolls, they ended up discovering something unexpected but just as exciting: a rare half-shekel coin from the first year of the Jewish Revolt against the Roman Empire, made in either 66 or 67 CE. 

The coin features 3 pomegranates, one of the Seven Species indigenous to the Land of Israel and an important Biblical symbol, along with the words “Holy Jerusalem” in ancient Hebrew script. On the other side is a depiction of a chalice, like what was used by the Temple Priests, with the words “half-shekel” and the letter aleph to indicate it was minted in the first year of the Revolt.

This half-shekel coin would have been used to pay the Temple tax towards the upkeep of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, or amongst Jews in Judea as part of their local economy.


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Historical Context & Significance

Yaniv David Levy, a scholar from the Israel Antiquities Authority, showing the discovered Judean coin (Photo credit: Emil Aladjem/IAA)


It’s noteworthy that the inscription of “Holy Jerusalem” on the discovered coin is written in Hebrew rather than Greek, the usual language of the currency of the Roman Empire at the time. According to researchers from the Israel Antiquities Authority, this means that this half-shekel was minted autonomously by the Jewish community itself, in defiance of the emperor and as an act of resistance against the Roman occupation.

Israeli archaeologists theorize that this particular coin must have been dropped by a Judean rebel roaming the hills and caves outside Jerusalem. It was found near the Ein Gedi oasis in the Judean desert.

Other Judean coins from this era had been previously found in excavations in the Land of Israel, though what makes this one especially rare is that it was one of the very first ones minted during the Jewish uprising. 


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The timing of the find was also particularly special and significant, as it was discovered right before the Jewish fast day of Tisha B’Av, which commemorates the destruction of the Holy Temple in 70 CE and the failed Jewish Revolt by the very Judeans who minted and used this coin - making it a poignant connection to our ancestors and our history!


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