The history of the Zionist Shekel has been all but forgotten. In fact, we had stumbled across it early in our reseach, but gave it no import at the time, as we were seeking the mysteries of the commandment itself in preparation for its imminent restoration. Of what significance could some secular quasi messianic off-shoot have to our research? We wanted only the authentic information relating to how the commandment was performed from the time of the Tabernacle till the destruction of the Second Temple.
Further research, after the restoration was already in its third year, brought us face to face with the Zionist Shekel once again. What started out as a fact finding mission to a local antiquarian book dealer in Jerusalem sent us off on an unexpected treasure hunt, and what we have rediscovered has proven to be essential to the story of the restoration of not only this particular commandment, but to the entire Zionist phase of the restoration of Israel to its homeland.
In 1897 at the first Zionist Congress in Basle, Herzl declared the Zionist Shekel into existence. What was it? When you gave in your annual dues to the Zionist Organisation, rather than receiving a 'receipt' you received a 'Shekel'. This Shekel was your voting right at the following Zionist Congress. It in fact, for the first time in Jewish history, empowered the Jewish masses to take responsibility for themselves and elect their leadership, at a time when the Jewish people was feeling its utter helplessness as the winds of European anti-semitism was squeezing the life out of us.
By choosing the motif of the 'Shekel', David Wolffsohn sought to utilize the latent energy of the Half-Shekel to bring every individual Jew together, on an equal basis, in a nation building endeavor, just as was done with the first Half-Shekel we gave in the desert of Sinai, which went to create the foundations for the Tabernacle.
What started out as a pristine ideal, whose virtues were praised by the likes of no less than Nahum Sokolow, at the hands of the later Zionist leadership was ground into the dirt revealing the inadequacies of both the Zionist leadership's G-dless ideologies, and democracy itself.
There are those among us who have tried to convince us that the 'Original Sin' of the Zionist enterprise was the collateral damage caused in the War of Independence. The real sin took place long before we reached that stage in our physical redemption.
As you will see as you read the writings we have gathered, the socialist faction, the Labor Party, used its superior finances, part of which was obtained from Hitler's regime, to purchase tens thousands of 'Shekels' to distribute freely in order to buy votes and positions at the Zionist Congresses. We are taught concerning the Shekel that the rich shall not give more nor the poor less. When the rich give more, as was the case here, the poor perish. This was the 'Original Sin' of the Zionist movement, they took a holy concept and spit on it. While Labor concerned itself with creating self-perpetuating power institutions, the Jews of the east, who looked to Zionism to provide them with immediate physical relief, were systematically shorn of their possesions, freedom, and lives, unable to afford the token cost of the 'Shekel', and unable to influence the agenda at the Zionist Congresses.
In 1898 the first 'Shekels' were issued and used to elect the leadership at the Second Zionist Congress. From then on, till its abolition in 1968, every country with a Zionist Organisation issued every year its Zionist Shekels. There are hundreds, if not thousands of varieties. As far as we can tell they have never been catalogued. We have begun the process of collecting and cataloguing these artful pieces of history, as well as the promotional materials and posters that accompanied them.
In 1897 Herzl declared the Shekel.
In 1898 the first Shekels were issued and used to create the State of Israel.
In 1948 the State of Israel was established.
In 1997 Beged Ivri declared the restoration of the Holy Half-Shekel.
In 1998 the first Half-Shekels were issued and given to the Temple.
In 2048 ?
Herzl wrote at the conclusion of the First Zionist Congress "Today I have founded the Jewish State. Perhaps in five years, certainly in 50 years..."
Let's not wait 50 years to see the Temple. Had we responded sooner to Herzl's call, we might have saved millions of Jews from death and destruction. Let us arise and shake the dust off ourselves and give the Holy Half-Shekel, in our millions, today - not tomorrow. Today!