A new 50 shekel banknote bearing the likeness of Russian-born Hebrew poet Shaul Tchernichovsky (1875-1943) entered circulation on Tuesday, but Dr. Hagai Ben-Artzi of Bar Ilan University refuses to use the new note and calls on others to follow suit.
Ben-Artzi, who is the brother-in-law of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and lectures on the Torah and Jewish Thought, told Arutz Sheva that the new banknote is a disgrace to the state of Israel.
The noted lecturer reminded that Tchernichovsky wasmarried to a Christian woman his entire life, and refused the insistent pleading of former Chief Ashkenazic Rabbi Shlomo Goren to have her convert to Judaism as befitting the wife of a key Hebrew poet in modern Israel.
"Shaul Tchernichovsky became a symbol of assimilation - the ideology of assimilation. It cannot be that a man like this, even with all his importance as a poet, should become a symbol of the state of Israel," said Ben-Artzi.
The new note sends exactly the wrong message at a time when "in Europe there's an 80% rate of assimilation and in the United States 60% assimilation," argued Ben-Artzi. "The Jewish people are becoming annihilated due to assimilation; how can the state of Israel be capable of turning precisely Tchernichovsky into a symbol?"With all due respect to Rav Goren, zt"l, the conversion would have likely been meaningless, but other than that Ben Artzi is spot-on. I just don't know if it is possible to boycott a bank note, but I intend - bli neder (without taking a vow) to try.