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“My mother is Riki Opolski, the famous Israeli,” said Adam Opolski when we met him in the streamlined and sparkling spa on the ground floor of Tel Aviv’s Sheraton Hotel. “She always worked in hotels so I knew them from the time I was born.”
Unlike most of his contemporaries, Adam, who is still in his 20s, decided not to go off to India after his army stint, but to open his own spa instead. “I’m not part of the hotel; I rent this space,” he said. But they give me customers, and I give them customers. So it pays on both sides.
“The most interesting treatment we have in this spa is the fish pedicure” (left), the soft-spoken self-starter told us. “We have this big tank that holds 450 fish that come from the north of Israel. They’re called gara ruffa; they’re small, brown and gray, and they don’t have any teeth. Women will come here and put their feet in the tank, and the fish will swim over to them. They do this naturally; they dart around very quickly and suck the dead skin off the women’s feet. If the women put their hands in the water, the fish will come to their hands. Wherever you put your hands or feet, the fish will find you. I don’t have a tank big enough to hold a whole body, but if I did, they’d cover the whole body.
“The gara ruffa are only about three centimeters to start with, but over five, six months, if they eat enough dead skin, they can grow to ten centimeters. If there’s an infected toenail they won’t touch it. An open wound, they ignore it. They only clean the dead skin.”
We tried it out, putting a hand instead of a foot into a tank. And as Adam said, all these little fish rushed over and began eating away at the skin around our fingernails. It was a funny feeling, a ticklish sensation. But not unpleasant.
“There’s this guy from the north who grows these gara ruffa,” Adam told us. “He sells them to malls. You can go to a cinema in a Tel Aviv mall, and you’ll see people sitting in a row with their feet in tanks of water getting the treatment before they go to the movies.
“Here at my spa, we clean the tank, empty out the water, put in fresh water every day. We let the fish clean the feet for 20 minutes. Then we follow it with a 10- to 20-minute massage with cream all over the legs.”
Adam’s spa also offers a full scale of spa treatments: manicures, pedicures, facials, massages. Next to the fish pedicure, the most sought-after treatment is the Turkish bath, the Hammam, a huge wet sauna.
“I have this big Russian man — he is the best,” said Adam. “You lay down on a marble slab, and he cleans your body with a big brush, using salt from the Dead Sea. He puts cold water on the body, takes this big eucalyptus whip and slaps the body with it. It doesn’t hurt at all; it’s fun. Then he puts a big blanket of soap all over the body. And then there is a big massage, pulling, stretching for 40 minutes. It’s very popular.”
The oxygen facial is also very popular. It follows a regular facial with a mask which allows oxygen to penetrate the skin, clean and stretch it a bit. “It takes 90 minutes, and you’ll come out looking younger,” Adam assured us. “The cost is around $250; it’s very popular with women from the States.”
Ninety percent of the products used in Adam’s spa are from the Dead Sea, particularly the Minus 417 brand, the Dead Sea being 417 meters below sea level, the lowest place in the world.
Next year Adam plans to add a salt room, where all the surfaces will be covered with salt, to his spa. “You stay in this room, and a small machine will take salt from the walls and put it into your body. If you smoke or have asthma, this will be a wonderful treatment.
“When I opened this spa, I wanted to call it Adam – after me,” he said. “But that name was already taken by another spa. So I decided to call it Cielo which is Spanish for sky. That is my limit.”