Tuesday, December 26, 2006
From "Director Zwick excavates the bloody price of 'Diamonds' " (12/08/06) by Steven Rosen in the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles:
Sierra Leone is now at peace, achieved with the help of international intervention, and trying to recover from its strife. But its recent history makes for many harrowing scenes in "Blood Diamond." The fact that the rebels sold diamonds to support their monstrous acts, relying on a worldwide "lust for bling," might make some moviegoers wonder about their own unwitting complicity in all this.
It is an issue directly tied to the Jewish community. The diamond industry has traditionally employed many Jews in all its manufacturing and sales aspects. Here in Los Angeles, Jews -- including many who are Orthodox -- are well-represented as merchants in the downtown Jewelry District.
On its Web site, the Israeli Diamond Industry claims to manufacture two-thirds of all gem-quality diamonds in the world, and the World Diamond Congress held its annual meeting in Israel this year. The German-Jewish Oppenheimer family led De Beers to become the worldwide leader in the mining and sales of rough diamonds, although its patriarch reportedly converted to the Anglican Church in the 1930s. De Beers also has a worldwide retail operation, including a store on Rodeo Drive.
According to author Edward Jay Epstein, who wrote "The Rise and Fall of Diamonds," Jews turned to diamonds as an asset during the Spanish Inquisition, because they could be easily concealed and instantly redeemed wherever they were forced to move. When they fled Lisbon and Antwerp, for instance, they moved to Amsterdam and established diamond-cutting factories.
"One of the great historical ironies is the fact Jews needed a currency for the Diaspora -- something small, something that can be taken with them -- and that led to roles within this industry," Zwick said. But he also added that the "conflict diamond" problem "is more about an industry than a religion."
Or is it?
"Yes, it's a Jewish issue because [so many] of the diamond dealers in the world are Jewish," said a Jewish Los Angeles diamond merchant, who asked not to be named for security reasons. "Think of how many people are employed in the diamond industry in Israel and how vital it is to that economy."
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