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Home > Israeli Diamond Industry > History > 1900s


The Early 1900s

By Shira Ami

We generally consider 1937 as the beginning of the diamond industry in Palestine; it was then that the first diamond polishing plant was established in Petah Tikva. However, the diamond industry actually took its very first steps at the Zionist Congress in 1905.


After the Kishniev pogrom and the riots against the Jews in Russia, the Zionist Congress sought ways to help the Jewish orphans who had lost their parents in these tragic events. Jews from Belgium and Holland offered to teach them the diamond profession in Palestine.


When the Bezalel Art Academy was founded in Jerusalem, an idea was raised for establishing a jewelry making industry in Palestine: it was suggested that the traditional Yemenite art of gold filigree be combined with diamond cutting. The idea failed, because the Ottoman regime refused to waive customs on the import of diamonds for the purpose of training and education.


In 1910, Rabbi Shlomo Weinstein, a Zionist Jew from Poland (1898-1976), organized a group of Jewish diamantaires from Antwerp to purchase polishing and bruting machines and send them to Jerusalem. When the diamantaires of Antwerp heard about the idea, they protested; under this pressure, the idea of setting up a center in Jerusalem that might compete with Antwerp was abandoned. The machines, which were stored in Jerusalem, were discovered – in working condition – thirty years later. They were first operated in 1940.



Zoltan Kluger -Courtesy of the Government Press Office


Ramat Gan in 1938

In 1927 the British Mandate governors invited Yonah Fischer, the leader of the Belgian Zionist movement, to recruit Belgian entrepreneurs to set up diamond factories in Palestine. However, it was an idea before its time, because of the lack of a skilled work force and the difficulty of getting professional diamond cutters to Palestine.


In 1933, Aharon Moritz managed to organize a cooperative in Antwerp of seven Jews, who decided to immigrate to Israel and set up a diamond polishing plant. In 1934, Moritz began lobbying the Mandate authorities to cancel the customs levied on importing rough diamonds. It was two years later, in 1936, that the Mandate government waived the customs. By that time, the cooperative had broken up.


Joseph Nadel began receiving half-finished diamonds from Antwerp by mail and polishing them at home. Another home polishing plant was opened by Sam Mo’ed in Tel Aviv. Zvi Rosenberg and Asher Daskall installed polishing machines in Rosenberg’s house in Petah Tikva, and opened Palestine’s first diamond factory.

The same year, the “Palestine Diamond Club” – the first diamond trade organization in Palestine – was founded. The members of this group were the first to plan a diamond center in this country. They were led by the late Akiva Arye Weiss, one of the founders of Ahuzat Bayit, a small quarter that ultimately grew into the city of Tel Aviv. Development of a large diamond center in Palestine was only one of Weiss’s ideas – he was a man of many deeds and of vision. He made contact with a handful of people who traded diamonds and jewelry, and suggested that they set up the diamond club in a room in his house. Just a year later, the club moved to two small rooms at 120 Allenby street, then occupied by the Belgium-Palestine Bank.

Source: HaYahalom - State of Israel Jubilee edition

By: Shira Ami
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