Made of pure silver, the coin was minted in 67 CE, the 2nd year of the Great Revolt
"Liel Krutokop was having fun playing archaeologist for a day. The 11-year-old girl was volunteering with her family at Emek Tzurim National Park in Jerusalem, sifting through dirt and looking for artifacts. Examining the very first bucket she’d chosen, Krutokop spotted something round. Wiping away the dust, she could tell that she’d stumbled onto something important. As Rossella Tercatin reports for the Jerusalem Post, the Petah Tikva resident had found a rare, 2,000-year-old silver coin with ancient Hebrew inscriptions reading “Israeli shekel” and "Holy Jerusalem." Recovered from dirt collected in the neighboring City of David National Park, the coin dates to the first-century C.E. Great Revolt, which found the people of Judea rebelling against the Roman Empire. It is marked on one side with a cup and the letters “shin” and “bet,” indicating it was minted during the second year of the uprising (67 or 68 C.E.), reports Shira Hanau for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA)."
Why is this find so important?
For one thing, it was found on the newly excavated Pilgrimage Road, which was the main thoroughfare for pilgrims going up into the second temple.
Also, it's made of silver. Tens of thousands of ancient coins have been unearthed, but only about 30 silver coins have been discovered from the Great Revolt.
But now we have this coin, which was likely made in the temple very shortly before it was destroyed, thereby ending a major era of Jewish history.
That era in many ways began with the Hanukkah story, marking a triumphant return to the temple and cleansing of its artifacts, including the menorah. For over two centuries, from 165 BCE to 70 CE, Jews remained in control of this holy precinct. Then it was lost, and the Pilgrimage Road was buried for two thousand years. See a video of the girls' retracing the steps of the pilgrims on that road.
On one side, the coin says, "Holy Jerusalem."
As we light our menorahs this week, it is important to realize that the events of Hanukkah mark not an ending of a revolt, but a beginning of a long historical process that led, ultimately, to this. While we celebrate the triumph of the light and the miracle of the oil, we can also note the miracle of the silver coin - the one that now is peering back at us, having been recovered, quite literally, from the dustbin of history.
And so we wonder. Who made it? Who held it? Who used it to buy a sheep for sacrifice or a meal for their family. Who gave it to the poor? And, most poignant of all, who was carrying it last, when the walls gave way or the soldiers came barreling through on their bloody quest for total destruction?
We may never know the answers to any of those questions. but we do know that two thousand years later, the coin ended up in the sifter of an 11-year-old Israeli girl. As the coin begins a new life in an old land, we stand in wonder at the great miracle of Jewish revival, the great miracle that happened here.
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