If you thought that election propaganda and the use of sacred symbols to help candidates succeed characterize only our modern era – you were wrong. Findings that have been discovered show that the method existed already in the days of the Second Temple.

How? To prove these things, one must go back to the period of Roman rule in Jerusalem. In March of 44 BC, Julius Caesar was assassinated by several senators. The murder led to anarchy and civil war in the Roman Empire. The confrontation between the rivals in Rome affected the entire Empire, including here in Jerusalem.

Among the political forces involved in Jerusalem at that time were on the one hand Antigonus II Mattathias from the descendants of the Hasmoneans known in the Hanukkah story, and on the other hand the House of Antipater, which included Herod and his brothers who rose to greatness due to their proximity to the Roman government. Antigonus II Mattathias, who really wanted to reign, turned to the Parthians, who were the sworn enemies of Rome, and convinced them to conquer Jerusalem and make him King, in exchange for a lot of money. The Parthians were convinced and accepted his offer. Mattathias arrived in Jerusalem at the head of the Parthian army and oppressed Herod, his brother Phasael and their supporters who were hiding in the palace together with the Hasmonean Hyrcanus. As part of the psychological warfare, Mattathias promised the besieged that if they surrendered, they would not be harmed. Phasael and Hyrcanus believed his words, but as soon as they left – they were chained. Phasael realized that he was being deceived and ended his life by smashing his skull against the wall, Hyrcanus’ ears were cut off to prevent him from returning to serve as the High Priest. Whereas Herod, who had a developed survival instinct, was not tempted to leave, stayed in the palace and managed to escape in the dead of night towards Idumea.

Antigonus, who became King overnight, enjoyed his position for a short time – between the years 40-37 BC. During his reign, he minted coins in a style similar to those minted by the Hasmonean kings before him. At a site adjacent to the Western Wall, under Robinson’s Arch, in sifting earth from the excavations, a bronze coin from this period was found with a different Greek inscription on one side: “of King Antigonus” – “Mathea the High Priest (and) friend of the Jews”, and on the other side rays of abundance like on the two-shekel coin that is in use today.

But he minted not only those coins. To the researchers’ surprise, additional bronze coins of Antigonus II Mattathias were found in some places, which are completely different from the regular coins. These are rare coins that on one side have a painting of the Temple lamp and on the other side probably the showbread table.

What is the meaning of the coin? Why was it needed? Why are the symbols engraved on it so different from the symbols engraved on other coins?

The answer to these questions is very relevant today. This is election propaganda. A man like Herod would not surrender after Antigonus II Mattathias was crowned as the King in Jerusalem. In the struggles, Herod managed to receive military aid from the Romans, and arrived back in Israel where a battle developed on several fronts, a battle at the end of which he besieged Jerusalem for 55 days, captured the city and sent Antigonus II Mattathias to his cruel death – beheading in Antioch. What does all this have to do with the rare archaeological find? The hypothesis is that the tiny coins, with the symbols of the Temple engraved on them, were minted in the last days of Antigonus II Mattathias as election propaganda, to convince the people that he was the one who continued the path and tradition and not Herod who trampled everything dear to Judaism.

Well folks, history repeats itself: today photos of Rabbi Ovadiah are enlisted for election propaganda, whereas back then they went further and enlisted the menorah and the Temple vessels for election purposes.