Grapes: Their Hidden Wisdom and Symbolism in Israel’s History
by Yoni Schwartzman
❝Like the wood of the grapevine among the trees of the forest❞
Ezekiel’s prophecy emphasizes a beautiful message learned from the grapes of Israel. The country has hundreds of beautiful vineyards that produce some of the best tasting wines in the world. These vineyards’ hundreds of thousands of grapes are harvested each year by crushing the fruit in order to produce the Holy Land’s renown wines. This process, as we see from Ezekiel’s words, is a metaphor for our own personal religious practice.
Producing choice wines from grapes is a labor intensive process, as is our own personal journey of spiritual growth. Bettering ourselves through God’s everlasting guidebook, The Bible, requires much hard work and toil. This work is worth the effort though. Working hard to improve ourselves will ultimately allow us to reap the rewards of a stronger connection to Hashem, God, in the same way that laborious work produces the finest wines.
This beauty of the grape as a symbol of Israel’s spiritual connection to the land has garnered it a special place in the hearts of the Jewish People. That is why it can be seen on the nation’s coinage throughout the centuries, from the time of Herod all the way to today.
The first such example we will look at today is a coin minted during the reign of Herod The Great’s son, Herod Archelaus, in Judea in the year 4 BCE. This 2 prutah coin was used during the time of the Second Temple in Jerusalem.
Next, we will jump to 67 CE during the First Jewish Revolt against the Romans. An ornate 2 prutah coin was minted during this period that showcase a beautiful grape leaf on one of its faces.
After the fall of the Second Temple, there arose a second Jewish rebellion against the Romans led by Bar Kochba between 132 and 135 CE. During this revolt, many iconic coins were struck in order to bolster the nation’s independence. By issuing their own coinage, the Jews living in Israel during this period were able to show that they were more than just a vassal of Rome: they were truly an independent country with its own laws, culture, and currency.
Lastly, we shall jump to the 2oth century. After the State of Israel was founded in
1948, the country used a beautiful 50 prutah coin whose design was inspired by the aforementioned coins in Jewish History. From times of antiquity to the era of the modern State of Israel, the Jewish people have always held on to their culture and heritage. Today, our nation is boldly moving forward into the 21st century while still giving great honor to our thousands of years of heritage in the Holy Land.