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There are some who claim that it all began with Rina Mor. Mor, an anonymous soldier from Tivon, surprised Israel and the entire world when she won the Miss Universe contest in 1976. For local models, Mor's victory opened the gates to international modeling and - to appearances on the covers of leading international fashion magazines. Judging by the success abroad of Israeli models, and recently of a small number of male models as well, the world seems to like our brand of beauty.

After Mor, the fashion capitals of New York and Paris became familiar with Michaela Bercu, the first Israeli woman to appear on the cover of American fashion magazine Vogue, which wrote that Bercu's debut in the world fashion may have been the greatest female beauty sensation since Helen walked on the walls of Troy. Elle magazine wrote: "What is beauty? The answer is redefined every few years, but now seems to be: the stunning face of Michaela Bercu, the bombshell who has landed on us from far-off Israel."

Then came Shiraz Tal. Cosmopolitan magazine wrote that she had amazing green eyes, an infectious love of life and enough charisma for 10 models. Cosmo went on to ask what Israel puts in the water that makes the girls so beautiful there. And, of course, there's Nina "Vic" Brosh. Liberation magazine wrote: "The woman with the angelic eyes and the satanic body that have brought her from a remote Israeli town to the top echelons of world models. How long will Nina Brosh's perfect beauty last? A thousand springs, at most."

Also worthy of mention are Shelly Gafni, Amit Machtinger, Maayan Keret and Kim Iglinsky. But what is there about local beauty that has opened the glamorous world of supermodels to it? Yves St. Laurent, the French fashion designer of Algerian origin, once said that "we have to get used to the idea that true beauty doesn't come from our boring countries, but from multicultural and mixed-race countries - the distant provinces of the former Soviet Union, the wild regions of the African continent and a tiny country in Asia called Israel."

Apparently even the toughness and rough edges contribute to the success of the Israeli women. The magazine Top Model wrote that they have taken the modeling world by storm, in one of those "lightning operations" in which their country specializes. It made special mention of their innocent smiles - nice, broad ones that don't steal the show from the stunning beauty of their owners. It went on to say that Israeli models Shiraz, Maayan and Nina threatened to topple the frozen-faced European models.

In recent years, the latest gimmick on the beauty scene has been the "natural look" face with strong ethnic features. The demand for the new supermodel - fair, lipstick-wearing blondes are "out," the exotic look is "in" - is successfully filled by the Israelis. That's how Shirli Buganim, Maya Yeshayahu, Sandy Bar and Moran Atias have been able to burst into the world's consciousness.