Yityish Aynaw becomes first ever Ethiopian-Israeli to Win Miss Israel (2013)

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The Miss Israel pageant has made history this week something you rarely expect from a competition that has been going on for 63-years. 21-year old, Yityish Aynaw, has been crowned the first miss Israel of Ethiopian heritage. Many African-Americans do not necessarily feel they relate to Israel outside of affiliations with Christianity and the Holy Land. Images of Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown taking a pilgrimage to the “Motherland” gave a pop-culture glimpse into heterogeneous affiliations with this small sovereign country. Israel, however, is a land not only rich in heritage, but rich in diverse nationalities as a place of color. Currently, over 150,000 Ethiopian Jews find their home in Israel. Israel has been home to people of color before time, yet many Ethiopians feel that they are still discriminated against as a modern day minority. So, it was with great applause and pride that they recently welcomed their first Miss Israel, Yityish Aynaw, a black Ethiopian.

A week ago when President Obama visited Israel, he requested to have dinner with Yityish, who has broken barriers as the new face of Israel. She recently told the Guardian that it was time to show a black Miss Israel. “It’s important that a member of the Ethiopian community win the competition for the first time,” she told the panel. “There are many different communities of many different colors in Israel, and it’s important to show that to the world.” Losing both of her parents at a very young age, Yityish left Gondor (northwest Ethiopia) to live with her maternal grandparents in Israel – which she thought was the “land of milk and honey”. In the Miss Israel competition, she kept her ethnic name which means appropriately, “looking forward to the future.” She spoke out that many other contestants dropped their ethnic names in the competition and instead used their Hebrew names, but she found it important to maintain her birth name.

However, just as President Obama’s reelection doesn’t represent racial equality, Yityish’s victory as Miss Israel 2013 doesn’t stop the systematic discrimination in Israel against their migrant Ethiopian population…

…but it’s a start.

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