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Silver, Money, Coins

This is an adaptation of the Winter Break 2023 Newsletter, which you can also read here.

Did you know that the word “money” comes from the name “Monetha''? That’s another name for Hera, the wife of Zeus. And why am I talking about Zeus? Well, I’m in good company because the Haggadah does too. How much do you think a goat costs? …Let the weight of that sink in…

Speaking of weights, I am excited to share another recent discovery related to money: The earliest silver currency hoard in the Southern Levant was published this year in the Journal of Archaeological Science, as cited in the Times of Israel (thank you Zach Beer for directing me to this article). This discovery is exciting because based on isotope analyses, the earliest currency in the region, found in Israel, originated in the Land of the Hittites — Turkey. This adds more weight to the story of the purchase of the Cave of Machpelah from Ephron the Hittite, and this is indeed mentioned in the article:

“This is the way Abraham paid for the Cave of the Patriarchs — he weighed 400 shekels. There were no coins at the time. He weighed pieces of silver.”

This is a story I discuss on my tours “The Third Side of the Coin” and “Avraham’s Journey: From the Ancient Near East to the Middle East”. I am extending these tours into Winter Break (January 15-30).

I always find it exciting when archaeological discoveries shed light on the stories we grew up with, bringing questions and discussions into sharp focus and seeing their connection to contemporary issues. This is what I share on my tours, along with the thrill of being surrounded by ancient artifacts and works of art that bring the text to life.

I didn’t send a “Happy New Year 2023” newsletter partly because I’m in the process of moving from our bus to a caravan (moving up the social scale here), but also because I don’t really celebrate the civil new year. It is of course noted on my calendar for tax purposes. But there is something fun when the civil year ends - the “top 10 of 2022” lists:

According to The Archaeologist, at least three discoveries from Israel made the list of top 10 archaeological discoveries for 2022. In the spirit of the upcoming Parasha and the plague of lice: One discovery was a Canaanite lice comb from Lachish, with an inscription so small it was nearly looked over when it was first found. This inscription made several headlines, and is making an important contribution to our understanding of ancient Canaanite language and the ancient Hebrew alphabet. There were several other significant discoveries which I mentioned in previous newsletters, and I will continue to share these as we move forward.

On that note, I would like to invite you to join my adventures in the museum on this winter break. This winter I’m offering private tours in the Rockefeller Museum, the Israel Museum and the Bible Lands Museums. On the tour ‘Night in the Museum’ (on Tuesdays and Wednesdays when museums are open late), I will combine themes related to Ancient Egypt and the Parasha, new exhibitions related to Ancient Israel, King Tut, and contemporary exhibitions, along with more surprises.

Do you have friends or family who are coming to Israel and want to see everything? The museums hold a microcosm of Israel’s rich history and land, and my unique tours can open the country before them — under one roof! If you need a one-liner that will convince them to check out a tour, you can cash in on that one.

I aim to guide private tours as much as possible, but will soon post 2-3 public tours as well. If you would like to guarantee your spot and have a unique experience with your family or friends, please reach out and we’ll make the magic happen.

Wishing you all a healthy winter, financially successful fiscal year, and a meaningful visit to Israel to those who are coming in January.

Nachliel Selavan

“The Museum Guy”

Suggestions for this winter

...And there are more on the menu

Are you afraid of the dark? Looking for something fun, spooky or just…different, to do with your family and friends in the museum? This is the perfect tour for those long cold winter nights - indoor excitement and fun activities. The tour can take place in the Israel Museum on Tuesday, or the Bible Lands Museum on Wednesday.

The Jewish holiday cycle ends with Chanukah and Purim during a period of darkness - both physical and spiritual.

This is the tale of the two winter holidays that were born in Exile. Two holidays which, according to Jewish tradition, are eternally relevant, beyond all of the other holidays. The tour is in the Bible Lands Museum.

Avraham's Journey

Abraham’s journey, mentioned every day in the morning services, takes him through the centers of civilization at the time, leads him to Egypt – and to a promise of an Exodus whose importance cannot be overstated.

Why are the departure from Ur and Exodus from Egypt so important to us? Join me in the museum for an adventure to explore these questions through the history and archaeology of ancient Mesopotamia and ancient Egypt.

The tour is in the Israel Museum.

The Third Side of the Coin


Why does money matter so much? Where do the designs on our coins come from? What currency did they use 3,000 years ago?

Let's explore the third side of the coin. Explore the history behind the money and how it was used by the Zionist movement and the Bank of Israel. Learn behind-the-scenes stories about forgeries that became coins, and more!

The tour is in the Israel Museum.


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