Israeli shekel (ILS)

The Israeli shekel, or new Israeli shekel, is the legal tender of Israel. Its international ISO 4217 code is ILS, although it can also be represented by the initials NIS.

In addition to Israel, in the territory of Palestine, the shekel also coexists alongside the Jordanian dinar as currency for day-to-day transactions.

The strength of the shekel is a direct consequence of the strength of the Israeli economy. According to a 2017 report from the prestigious German bank, Deutsche Bank, the Israeli shekel was then the second strongest currency in the world, thanks to the robustness of the Israeli economy.

As of the date of this update (June 24, 2023), the equivalence of the Israeli shekel currency with respect to the euro is this:

  • 1 euro = 3.97 shekels.
  • 1 Shekel = 0.25 euros.

History of the Israeli Shekel

The shekel or shekel (plural sheqalim or shekels) is a very old currency that dates back to Mesopotamian times and was used under the reign of the Maccabees and also in Carthage. The name of this coin comes from the word “šiqlu or siqlu” (weight), that is, it comes from a unit of weight.

The first shekels were a unit of weight, used like other units such as grams and ounces. West Semitic peoples (Moabites, Edomites, and Phoenicians) used the shekel as their currency. In fact, the Carthaginian currency was based on the shekel.

As with many ancient units, the shekel had a variety of values depending on the era, the government, and the region where it was used. Hammurabi’s Code (1800 BC) fixed the value of unskilled labor at about ten shekels per year of work. Later, there are records from the Persian Empire (539–333 BC) that speak of a minimum of two shekels per month for unskilled labor, up to a maximum of seven to ten shekels per month in some records.

Already in the second half of the 20th century, since September 4, 1985, Israel has replaced the Israeli pound and the shekel with the new shekel or just shekel, as the official currency of the country.

Israeli shekel coins

The Israeli shekel is divided into 100 agoras or agorot. There are coins of 10 and 50 agoras (those of 1 and 5 agoras are no longer in circulation due to their low exchange value) and 1, 2, 5 and 10 shekels.

Below we see the coins in circulation in Israel today June 2023.

10 agora coin Israel

10 agoras coin from Israel
10 agoras coin from Israel

It is a replica of the coin minted by Antigonus Matathias, King of Judea and High Priest between 40 and 37 BC. C. with the menorah (seven-branched candlestick), described in the Exodus of the Bible and the emblem of the State of Israel.

In 2008 the 5 agorot coin was withdrawn. The dates written on the Israeli shekel coins are made in Hebrew numerals.

Half shekel coin

The ½ new shekel (NIS 1/2) coin shows the harp, the symbol and emblem of Israel.

Half shekel coin Israel
Half shekel coin Israel

1 new shekel coin (NIS 1)

It shows the lily flower, also part of the Israeli emblem.

1 Israeli shekel coin
1 Israeli shekel coin

2 new shekels coin (NIS 2)

It presents a pair of cornucopias, a symbol of abundance, full of fruits and cereals with a pomegranate in the middle: pearls around the upper half of the coin complete the set. The cornucopia is another symbol of the Hebrew state.

2 Israeli shekel coin
2 Israeli shekel coin

5 new shekels coin (NIS 5)

It has an Israeli capital from the 10th century BC.

5 Israeli shekel coin
5 Israeli shekel coin

10 new shekels coin (NIS 10)

It exhibits a palm tree with two baskets full of dates.

10 Israeli shekel coin
10 Israeli shekel coin

Israeli shekel banknotes

Shekel banknotes are issued by the Central Bank of Israel (Bank of Israel), with its headquarters in Jerusalem and a branch in Tel Aviv. They have the following denominations in circulation: 20, 50, 100 and 200 ILS.

The banknotes of the 2014 series, the third and last to date, incorporate high levels of security, innovation and accessibility. Specifically, they offer advanced anti-counterfeiting security features and are designed to facilitate their use by blind and partially sighted people.

Israeli Shekel banknotes ILS
Israeli Shekel banknotes ILS

Since the issuance of the third series of banknotes, the Bank of Israel definitively abandons the transcriptions “Sheqel and Sheqalim” on the banknotes to incorporate the words Shekel and Shekels. These banknotes incorporate the portraits of prominent Hebrew poets whose stories, works and activities are intertwined with the history of the rebirth of the state of Israel.

Israeli 20 shekel banknote

The 20 ILS (20 NIS) banknotes are reddish in color and measure 71 x 129 mm. They have the image depicting “Raquel the Poetess” against a background of palm fronds on the obverse. Raquel Bluwstein Sela, who is how this poet of Ukrainian origin is known but who wrote poetry in Hebrew, lived between 1890 and 1909. Today her work is compulsory study in Israeli schools.

20 israeli shekel banknote 20 NIS
20 israeli shekel banknote 20 NIS

The equivalent value of this 20 ILS banknote would be approximately 4.42 euros at present (June 2023) in currency suppliers in Portugal.

Israeli 50 shekel banknote

They are green in color and size 71 x 136 mm. They show on the obverse the image of the Russian Jewish writer, poet and translator, Saúl Chernijovsky (Shaul Tchernichovsky), who lived between 1875 and 1943, next to a citrus tree and its fruits. The NIS 50 banknote was put into circulation in September 2014.

50 israeli shekel banknote 50 NIS
50 israeli shekel banknote 50 NIS

The equivalent value of this 50 ILS banknote would be approximately 11.50 euros at present (June 2023) in currency suppliers in Portugal.

Israeli 100 shekel banknote

They are orange in color and size 71 x 143 mm, with an image on the obverse representing a woman, the writer Leah Goldberg with a background of almond blossoms. Goldberg, born in 1911 and died in 1970, was a writer in Hebrew who cultivated various genres. She spoke seven languages and translated numerous works into Hebrew, especially from Russian and Italian.

100 israeli shekel banknote 100 NIS
100 israeli shekel banknote 100 NIS

The equivalent value of this 100 ILS banknote would be approximately 22.90 euros at present (June 2023) in currency suppliers in Portugal.

Israeli 200 shekel banknote

They are blue in color and size 71 x 150 mm. They show on the obverse the image of the writer Nathan Alterman (1910-1970). Alterman was also an Israeli poet, playwright, journalist and translator.

200 israeli shekel banknote 200 NIS
200 israeli shekel banknote 200 NIS

The equivalent value of this 200 ILS banknote would be approximately 44.18 euros at present (June 2023) in currency suppliers in Portugal.

Euro to Israeli shekel exchange rate

From 2018 to the end of 2022, the Israeli shekel has been strong against the euro, its exchange rate falling to 3.3 shekels per euro. But in 2023, the euro is gaining strength again, reaching the figure of 4 shekels per euro and the current 3.97 ILS per euro.

If you search Google for “euro shekel exchange” you will find dozens of websites (“currency converters”) that offer a “rate” of the day. You will also see this graph with the prices of that pair of currencies from Google Finance.

Something like this (June 24, 2023):

Euro to Israeli Shekel exchange rate 24 June 2023
Euro to Israeli Shekel exchange rate 24 June 2023

But these are currency exchanges in international markets and between financial institutions, nothing to do with the currency exchange that tourists make on a trip to Israel.

In fact, in Portuguese currency suppliers today they will give you between 3.46 shekels per euro from Cambiator up to 2.70 shekels per euro in the main Portuguese airport.

So, when you see these values in Google and other currency converters with your mobile, you should keep the following in mind:

-It is an unofficial price, and therefore unreliable. In other words, if you click on the “Disclaimer” link, you get this warning from Google Finance: “Google cannot guarantee the accuracy of the exchange rates displayed. Please confirm current rates before making a transaction that may be affected by changes in exchange rates.”

-These rates that you see are usually the wholesale rates of shekels against the euro currency (currency and banknotes that tourists use abroad are not the same).

-This rate can only be held by banks among themselves, that is, it is impossible to obtain it as an individual.

If you need shekels in banknotes, you will have to go through the banknote retailer (bank or currency supplier). This market means that the ILS have had to be “transported” by someone for you to enjoy them (or bought from travelers from Israel passing through Portugal previously).

In other words, moving banknotes from one place to another has logistical costs that will make their sale price more expensive (the exchange rate that will be applied by whoever sells them to you).

The Israeli shekel is a currency that is not very abundant in Portugal. As a result of this, its rates are more expensive in Portugal than in Israel. If you decide to buy ILS in Portugal, it is good to anticipate the purchase and reserve it online to obtain a better price and ensure its availability.

Where to exchange Israeli shekels in Portugal

In Portugal, ILS can be exchanged at banks, currency suppliers (almost none have them) and airports (the currency supplier at the airport, Unicâmbio usually has them available, although at prohibitive rates).

This is what you need to know about the three options before buying or selling your ILS:

-The airport is by far the worst option because of the high price at which shekels are bought and sold. The currency suppliers that operate at the airport do not charge commission, but it is true that they usually have this currency available. Although they charge more than enough with the high exchange margins that they apply to you. The profits from this lucrative are shared between the airport manager, which receives a significant fee, and the currency supplier that operates at the airport.

-For their part, banks, in addition to not handling this currency, have the ugly habit of charging commissions for practically everything, as you well know.

-Finally, the currency suppliers that operate at street level, outside the airport do not usually charge you a commission if you contract your ILS online. We recommend you see the rates of the currency suppliers that collaborate with Cambiator since they are quite competitive, and they vary every day.

Israeli shekel rates today

To know the best exchange rate from euro to Israeli shekel and shekel to euro today, the best thing you can do is use our currency comparator.

  • Exchange euros for shekels (EUR-ILS)
  • Exchange shekels for euros (ILS-EUR)

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