Israel: The Kindest Cut of All

Traditionally barred from many occupations, the Jews of Europe's ghettos gravitated for centuries toward dealing in money and jewelry. By World War II, roughly half of the diamond cutters and polishers in Antwerp and Amsterdam were Jewish. Those who managed to flee the Nazis took their skills with them. In the late 1930s, several hundred anguished but unbeaten refugees started the industry that today produces Israel's chief export: polished diamonds.

It is an industry perfectly suited to the country's scant resources. Diamond cutting and polishing require no water, little power, few fixed...

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