President Obama is leaving American soil next week for a trip through Israel. He will meet with dignitaries and attend a prestigious dinner at Israeli president Shimon Peres’ home. Guess who’s coming to dinner? Israel’s first black Miss Israel, Yityish Aynaw.
The recently-crowned beauty queen was thrilled when she received the invitation, but never imagined “such a thing” could happen in her life. Now she’s reasoning its fate. The 22-year-old told The Guardian, “The first black Miss Israel to be chosen and [Obama] is the first black American President. These go together.”
She also sees the president as a role model for her groundbreaking victory.
“For me, he is a role model who broke down barriers, a source of inspiration that proves that every person really can reach any height, regardless of their religion, race or gender,” she told The Telegraph.
Aynaw will stand in these shoes for a legion of Ethiopian-Israelis, who are often marginalized in their adopted homeland. According to The Guardian, though there are more than 100,000 Ethiopians living in Israel, “the Ethiopian Jewish community is marginalized in Israel, where some rabbis have questioned the authenticity of their Jewish faith.” She emigrated from Ethiopia when she was 12 and fought to assimilate into her adopted society. Aynaw refused to adopt a Hebrew name.
“I’d never change my name,” she told Jewish publication The Tablet. “Ever.” This could have jeopardized her chances of winning the Miss Israel pageant, but the former Israeli military officer leveraged her origins to her advantage.
Aynaw told the pageant’s panel of judges: “It’s important that a member of the Ethiopian community win the competition for the first time. There are many different communities of many different colours in Israel, and it’s important to show that to the world.”
Dinner table discussion will include Aynaw telling the president he’s her inspiration – and that he should free Jonathan Pollard, an American who spied for Israel and was sentenced to life in prison.