High School students from Herzliyah taking part in an archaeological dig this week were astonished to discover- in the middle of the Chanukah festival- three rare Hasmonean coins which had been issued by King Alexander Yannai, a descendant of the Hasmoneans, in the first century B.C.E. For the students it was a palpable reminder of their antecedents who lived here over two thousand years ago.
“The students' excitement was infectious. It is delightful to see such enthusiasm, when for the first time in their lives they become acquainted with their past and with the fascinating world of archaeology” said Dr. Eitan Klein, the archaeologist who supervised the dig which was coordinated with the Massa Yisraeli program of the Antiquities authority and took place at Chirbet Etri, an ancient village situated in the Judean hills near Adulam.
Almog Simoni, who found the coins ,told the Israeli news site “Israel Hayom” that she was shocked to discover that she had discovered something significant, and that even the archaeologists themselves were surprised.
One of the coins had a picture of the sun on it, which was a symbol of sovereignty. The coins were in use until the time of the Second Temple destruction nearly 200 years after they were minted and this testifies to their importance and provenance and to the economic influence that Alexander Yannai had.
Yannai, a grandson of Simon the brother of Judah Maccabee, was a successful king who conquered large areas of land for his kingdom but he was very harsh towards the Perushim, the Jews who maintained their allegiance to their faith and to the Rabbis and killed many of them. His wife, Shlomzion, together with her brother Shimon Ben Shetach, ruled after his death and managed to restore calm in the kingdom.