Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Holy Land and Its Keeper

My connection with the Holy Land has many expressions. It started with family holidays, became real through my decision to make Israel my home, and recently became the inspiration for the original jewelry piece featured here.

I grew up in an international, inter-faith family. I remember how every year we marked Passover at our house, and then went to my aunt at Easter time for Easter cakes. Respect for other religions is in my blood. So when I started my career as a jeweler, it was a lovely challenge to design pieces that have religious meaning for Jews and Christians. Since both faiths are rooted in the Land of the Bible, there is a lot of “common ground” – literally and symbolically.

Some years ago, when I decided to build an original Judaica collection, I was already experienced in jewelry art, and could make lots of things in precious metal (silver, brass, gold). But the metal needed something to make the pieces unique. 


For a while I explored the idea of combining leather and silver – the results can be very interesting. During one summer when I was in Lithuania, I pushed all my friends to find me a teacher in leather working. I took a lesson, and bought a book. But leather isn’t a very durable material for jewelry – especially for a piece with spiritual significance, which people might want to wear every day.

 Stones, gems and beads are beautiful, but they are too common. In spite of their great variety in sizes, shapes and colors, I felt driven to produce something found nowhere else in the market. There is only one way to make sure of that: make all the elements myself, starting “from scratch” as they say (from zero).

Through an accidental encounter with an expert in glass-making, Olga, I found a brilliant solution. I fell in love with dichroic glass as soon as I saw it, and looked no farther for my original source. My first glass Stars of David were made by Olga; then I bought the furnace for fusing and began to make my own glass.

Thus glass and silver became the building blocks of my collection. I added other symbols to the necklaces besides the Magen David: the Pomegranate, Hamsa and Chai.  Eventually I produced Christian symbols too: the Fish, and of course the Cross.

My collection has been popular enough with my customers for several years now. As all progress moves in a spiral, I knew that at some point in time I would return to this collection, to add something new.

But what could I do that wasn’t already done, and in some cases overdone? All the symbols I had made so far were widespread in jewelry art. The market is overflowing with hamsas, six-pointed stars, crosses...

I suddenly saw it: the Land itself! The map of Israel is familiar and recognizable to those who love this country – our country. Its outline, its regions and even its colors are unique.

For me and my generation who arrived here 20 years ago, the sense of identification with Israel is strong and deep. Our children live like “sabras” (native-born Israelis), and the first language of our grandchildren is Hebrew. This country is not only all around us, but also inside us.

That was the inspiration for the silver pendant in the form of a heart. Embedded within it is the outline of Israel as a dichroik glass cabochon – a sparkling mix of colors that represent the changing landscape of the country… from the sun-baked desert in the south to the green Galilee and Golan Heights in the north.

The gold Star hovers above it all, to complete the picture. This is a symbol of “the Keeper of Israel, who neither slumbers nor sleeps” (Psalm 121). And after all, that’s why Israel is called the Holy Land.


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