Benny and Yossi Meirov receive the Outstanding Exporter award from the president of Israel – Shimon Peres and minister of industry, trade and labor at the time – Shalom Simhon. With them: IDE president – Yair Sahar, president of MAI and FIEO – Zvi Oren (far left).
“When the president of Israel – Shimon Peres – walked among the recipients of the Outstanding Exporter award and shook their hands,” Benny Meirov tells us, “I touched his hand and told him: Today we come full circle. My father was one of the first to join Rafi (a former political party in Israel). He organized a meeting at his home in Afula and invited over 100 members of the community to meet with you. Peres asked my father’s name. When I told him – Michael Meirov, he was moved and told me: I remember him well.”
The road the Meirovs took from a kiosk in Afula to becoming outstanding exporters of polished diamonds from Israel passed through Belgium and Los Angeles”>Los Angeles“>Los Angeles, with ups and downs, difficulties and victories. The story ultimately led to those very moving moments at the President’s Residence and to the great honor enjoyed by Zilpah at the festive lunch that Benny and Yossi Meirov organized following the ceremony. After witnessing the tremendous excitement of the family and dozens of friends from the diamond community, we met with Benny Meirov, who agreed to tell us the story of the Meirov brothers from the beginning:
“For his entire life my grandfather wanted to be buried in Israel, and indeed he was. In 1930 he managed to smuggle his family across the border of Uzbekistan, leaving the Iron Curtain behind him.
Members of the Meirov family with IDI managing director – Precious Stones Exchange president – Shlomo Eshed (far left), IDE president – Yair Sahar (fourth from left), IsDMA president – Bumi Traub (sixth from left) and Moti Besser (far right).
The family settled in the Bukharin neighborhood of Afula in northern Israel. My father, Michael, was three years old at the time. He did not enjoy a spoiled, indulgent childhood. At the age of 13 he already began supporting the family. He prepared and sold sandwiches and wine to British soldiers, polished shoes and when he got older, he worked in construction. He even built a synagogue together with his friends.
In 1949 he was introduced to the young Zilpah (Zulay in Bukharin), who had arrived in Israel a year earlier together with her brothers and sisters from Uzbekistan, through the Youth Aliya organization. They had gone straight to their older brother, who was already living in Jerusalem. Michael, who came to Jerusalem with his uncle and his parents to meet his intended, was forced to return to Afula deeply disappointed. It turned out the Zilpah’s parents could not provide any dowry. The uncle refused the match and took everything they had brought in his truck back to Afula. But the young Michael didn’t give up. That same evening he returned to Jerusalem, showed up at Zilpah’s house and told her “I have nothing to give you, but I promise to give you children, to educate the children well and to support everyone for life. Zilpah said, “That’s all I want,” and their family story began.
Many years passed until Zilpah had the pleasure of sitting at the center of the Outstanding Exporter celebration, surrounded by the love, warmth, appreciation and friendship of all her friends and family.
Getting back to our story of the Meirov family, the newly-wed Michael become a taxi driver and worked from morning to night and fulfill his promises to his young bride: children, education and support. But then Michael was wounded by seven bullets during the Sinai Campaign. He lost his taxi driver license and in 1967 found himself unable to find work. Together with his children – the late Tsipi, who was then 18; Ilana, who as 17; Benny, then 16; Yossi, 14 and the late Margalit, then 12, he opened a kiosk. “Business thrived,” Benny Meirov tells us. “Every night at least 150 people would sit at Mifgash Hadekalim, as it was called, eating ice cream and drinking espresso. Nicknamed Hadikliya, it was very popular and we – my father, mother and 5 children, along with the help of our schoolmates, worked until 1 in the morning. At 8 we had to be in school. We made good money, and my father even bought us all apartments. When my turn came to go to high school, I enrolled in the Air Force Technical School, where I learned aircraft electricity. I did my mandatory military duty as well as an extra year in the professional army. I was wounded by a flare that smashed by left hand and right foot and was hospitalized for 5 months and then spent 8 months in the Kaye convalescent home in Nahariya.”
DIAMOND MANUFACTURING was not entirely foreign to the Meirov family. As part of his activity in helping absorb new immigrants from Bukhara, in the 1970s the father of the family, Michael, approached a relative – diamantaire Yossi Ben Zion – and asked him to opened a polishing plant in Afula and train new immigrants to work there. But Benny and Yossi’s professional career was decided in 1975, when their uncle, Amnon Rachminov, a diamantaire that lived in Belgium at the time, offered Benny – whose arm and leg were still in casts – to join the company’s office in the Shimshon Building. “After a year of studies in Ramat Gan office, I was transferred to my uncle’s office in Belgium. Two and a half years later, my uncle asked me to manage his office in New York. I agreed on the condition that Yossi, my brother, would join the office in Belgium. And so it was – my brother Yossi managed the office of the Rachminov brothers in Antwerp and I managed their office in New York until 1980, when I chose Los Angeles and opened a partnership there with the Rachminov brothers. However, the younger generation of the Rachminovs slowly began joining the business and in 1990 we decided to part ways. We did so amicably, maintaining good, friendly relations. Yossi and I opened independent offices – he in Belgium and I in Los Angeles.
In 1994, inspired by Zionism and my desire that my children live as teenagers in Israel, I left the management of the Los Angeles office to someone else and opened the firm, B. Y. Meirov (Benny and Yossi Meirov) in Israel. I bought polished goods and sent them to my brother to be marketed in Belgium. However, five years later Yossi also decided that his children had reached the age when they should return to Israel. In 1999 we formed a five-year partnership with David Elishayov. When the partnership ended, we also parted on very good terms.
In 2005 Yossi and I opened the partnership, MID – Meirov International House of Diamonds. In our very first year of activity our export figures soared and they continue to do so, with God’s will, to this day. We attribute a large part of our success to Union Bank, which has backed us all the way.”
Benny Meirov with minister of industry, trade and labor – Shalom Simhon, at the festive event held by MID at the King David Hotel after receiving the Outstanding Exporter award at the President’s Residence.
Now Benny and Yossi’s children work with their fathers. Benny’s son Dotan Meirov (38) works at MID as the Internet marketing manager and Michael (35), named for his grandfather, is responsible for certificates. Yossi has three children: David (37) manages the MID firm in Belgium together with Shmuel Yakutieli, Dana (31), who was involved in jewelry design and production and is now taking a break in order to raise her three children and Oded (26), who manages the fancy diamond department.
MID’s sources of rough and its manufacturing are diverse, taking place in many different places. The Meirov brothers market the polished through seven offices – their main office in Israel and the offices in Belgium, Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Shanghai, London and New York. “We have good, longstanding relationships with our clients. Every client that comes to us remains for years. We cultivate them and take care of them. Almost no clients have ever left us,” says Benny Meirov.
In addition, the company markets through a website that is managed by Benny’s son, Dotan, and Yossi’s son, David: “Through the website we sell diamonds (B2B only) in places we never dreamed of reaching, in quantities we never imagined and with a handsome profit margin. Every year we improve and every year we invest more in the website, because Internet marketing is our future.”
“My brother and I will never argue because we always give in to each other, and therefore we enter the game winning, not defeated,” says Benny Meirov. “We share our plans for the future: Yossi has six grandchildren and I have five, and we are united in our wish to prepare a strong, healthy and reliable company for them and the others to come.
We withstood the global economic crises well; we didn’t dismiss even 1 of our 101 employees around the world. We also endured 2012, which was a difficult year for manufacturers but an excellent one for traders and exporters. We give our employees good bonuses at the end of the year, and – most important – every year, regardless of the general or economic situation, we donate ten percent of our income to the community. All we wish for is good health, and to be able to enjoy the fruits of our labors and be content with our lot, in the hope and the prayer that our next generation will be united as we are.”