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Netanyahu mistakes fake coin as evidence of Jewish link to the West Bank

The coin, thought to be a 2,000-year-old half-shekel, was one of tens of thousands of replicas made for children by Israel Museum
Half-shekel replica made at the Israel Museum (Facebook)

A coin that was celebrated by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as evidence of a historical Jewish link to the West Bank has been found to be a fake replica.

Numerous media outlets reported last week on the find of a rare 2,000-year-old half-shekel by an eight-year-old girl, Hallel Halevy, in the Israeli settlement of Halamish in the West Bank.

The find excited many Israelis who argued it provided evidence of the historical Jewish connection to the West Bank, usually referred to as Judea and Samaria by Israeli nationalists.

Among those lauding the find, Netanyahu claimed in a Facebook post that the "2,000-year-old silver coin" was used during the Second Temple period in Jewish history which lasted between 530 BCE and 70 CE.

“This exciting discovery is additional evidence of the deep connection between the people of Israel and its land – to Jerusalem, to our temple, and to the communities in Judea and Samaria,” Netanyahu wrote in his post.

However, on Sunday it was revealed that not only was the coin not ancient, but was in fact a replica souvenir, regularly made at the Israel Museum, where a small mint at the Youth Wing of the museum is used to create the coins during annual Hanukkah activities organised as part of an educational programme for children.

“There is no chance that it is authentic, it is not an ancient coin," Haim Gitler, chief curator of archaeology and the curator of numismatics at the Israel Museum told The Times of Israel on Sunday.

"Even to call it a coin is to exaggerate what it is,” he added. 

Netanyahu deleted his Facebook post shortly after.

Public excitement 

Social media users were quick to comment on the news, with many ridiculing Netanyahu mistaking the replica for an historical artefact.