It’s only natural to think about security when planing to travel to Israel and other middle east countries. However, no matter where I wandered in the small country of Israel, the size of New Jersey, was I ever away of guards or guns. So from north to south, east to west, I never felt fearful although occasionally, I did see soldiers with arms however, being a travel writer I’m not naive enough to think that there weren’t many other security men and women dressed in mufti.
Instead of fear, I was treated to a plethora of the amazing historic a sites in both large and small cities and villages. So cultured are Israelis who love their music and theatre, it was an unexpected treat to attend a daytime concert with a world wide known violinist, see an ultra modern ballet at night, all in ultra imaginative and splendid venues. Also viewing fantastic high fashion by Israeli designers, eat delicious food which had been barely edible in the past and dwell at the many jewellery shop windows in both Jerusalem and Tel Aviv on every block.
In Tel Avi, where I spend much of my time, there are now restaurants that con compete easily with major world cities. And certainly sampled as many eateries as humanly possible.
Every metre in this city of Tel Aviv,approximately 404,000 residents, is utilized. What was once a train station, the tired looking area is now a swanky section called HataChana. Although parts of the rail tracks are still visible as is an ancient freight car, never allowing any visitor to forget the painstaking effort to develop this city. The swanky shops that now have opened are eye candy. Ronen Chen, the well known fashion designer has a thriving shop as does Rasili and stunning jewellery at Hella Ganon (two women designers, Hella using computerization with gold), and SOHO, a colourful filled shop with Israeli leatherwear, fashion jewellery and brilliant hues of Italian imported kitchenware which I haven’t seen elsewhere. The Italian in the HataChana,Toto’s in mid Tel Aviv, Gilli’s at the sea shore, and Mool Ya near the sea (the most expensive but highly rated) are a few suggestions for a fine meal.
“Meet me at the Clock Tower” (a square in Jaffa, a stone’s throw from the centre of the city) has a cornucopia of small cafes offering mid eastern edibles and also inexpensive, mixed with sophisticated clothing and shoe shops, recently opened and updating the somewhat still scruffy old flea market.
With your new pair of shoes, take a walk down Rothschild Boulevard to see some of the 1500 UNESCO Heritage listed Bauhaus buildings, the largest number in the world hence the moniker, The White City.
Tel Aviv Museum of Art is an exemplary architectural masterpiece only outdone by the museum in Jerusalem. Both are triumphs of design. While at the former, there was an outstanding exhibit by German artist Anselm Kiefer and at the latter, just a walk through was breathtaking and the most unusual shapes and spaces I’ve ever seen.
At almost every store, hotel and museum, there is a security guard who looks through your bag(s) as you pass through the standard gate. Bold face security was when I wanted to go to the “boursa”, the Israel Diamond Centre in nearby Ramat Gan. I think it’s easier to get into Fort Knox. Luckily, I knew someone who knew someone who had a cousin who was a member of the Boursa. Without that connection, it would have ben impossible to et entry. with my passport which I was told to take. I went through what I is genuine security. Finally, through the gates, I was photographed for a “must have” visitor’s tag and had my fingerprints taken, now forever on their computer. Small showcases and a few retail stores dazzled with the stones. At the Boursa you could purchase loose or set diamonds from the purest white to fancy coloured, where round engagement rings are the most popular seller and where traditional ring design competes with the most innovated unique creations.
Opened in 1986, it is considered one of the largest diamond exchanges in the world although India is now a close second after learning this craft from Israelis. However, the jewellery world sees this huge complex of buildings, especially the 240 mete, Moshe Aviv Tower, as the ‘golden gate’ for purchases these sparklers and where a handshake completes the deal.
Cutting, finishing and polishing these stones is done in the area but in smaller, very secure and less flashy buildings.
Rough diamonds are imported and increase annually. When finished, they are exported to clients in USA, Hong Kong, Japan and Switzerland being their most important clients.
On the elevator up several floors, my new friend, Moshe Smooha, who is a member and been in the business for three decades, lad me to a sleek, whit door with huge dark lettering of one of the better known stone sellers. Yabukov Diamond Couture is where I took what I see as Diamonds 101 class from both Samocha and customer relations/brand manager Eliya Caspi. Yaubukov, one of the most respected merchants looked unlike a diamond establishment but more like an architect’s office. Glass panels separated the office and the board room was perfectly outfitted with the finest wood table and chairs. It’s here my education began. Naturally, I knew about the four Cs…cut, clarity, carats, colour.
Here I was taught why one diamond sparkles more than another. The faceting is referred to as hearts and arrows. And through these intricate and precise facets, a perfectly cut stone radiates unlike the lack lustre of a lesser stone. The light enters the top (or table) then reflects light from one side of facets to the other and exits from the top again. Proportions and symmetry of a stone establishes the brilliance and fire and it’s the cut which captures the light.
Colour is a matter of choice and goes from white or colourless (the most valuable and costly) to light yellow, cognac, brown and black. Pink, blue, green and rare red diamonds are precious as they are expensive. Staring at D, colourless) and ending at N to Z, the prices vary wildly.
Carat is the size and defined weight. As the carat size become larger, so does the pres. As for clarity, this means the absence of presence of flaws, either on the surface or inside and often can only be seen with a jeweller’s loupe. The rarest is the clearest without flaws. However, most diamonds contains inclusions such as pits, chips, cracks, air bubbles, feathering and non diamond minerals.
Shape is a matter of personal taste. however, still winning hands down, is the round stone. But princess, emerald, radiant, oval, marquise, pear, cushion and heart shapes have their admirers.
Both Samocha and Caspi agreed that most Israelis go for quality while North Americans take size…the bigger, not necessarily the better.
My head spinning from all the information and glitz, outside, across a wide street is The Harry Oppenheimer Diamond Museum and a short film explains where diamonds come from, found under extreme heat and pressure at the earth’s core, how they are located and the hard labour that goes into finding one small rough diamond among truck loads of dirt. There is also a few rooms filled with stunning, well secured, serious pieces of jewellery and another room of replicas showing the world’s largest and most famous diamonds.
With all this new information, diamonds will continue to shine for most women, including me and visiting two grand historic, amazing cities in a country just over 65 years, is another example of what is now part of this country’s amazing history.