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November 4, 2016 3:35 pm

Ethiopian-Israeli Beauty Queen: World Must Learn How ‘Unique and Diverse’ Jewish State Is

avatar by Barney Breen-Portnoy

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2013 Miss Israel Titi Aynaw. Photo: Courtesy.

2013 Miss Israel Titi Aynaw. Photo: Courtesy.

The world must learn how “unique and diverse” the Jewish state is, an Ethiopian-Israeli beauty queen told The Algemeiner on Friday, amid a week-long US college campus speaking tour.

“There are Americans who I meet who are surprised that I’m Jewish and that I was an officer in the IDF and won Miss Israel,” 25-year-old Yityish ‘Titi’ Aynaw said in an interview with The Algemeiner while in New York City. “It’s weird for them. They don’t understand my story. Everything good that I represent, they don’t realize that these are things that can happen in Israel.”

Aynaw — whose current US tour was organized by the Jewish National Fund and Media Watch International — was born in the Gondar region of Ethiopia. Left parentless at the age of 12, she and her brother soon moved to Israel to live with their grandparents in the Mediterranean coastal city of Netanya. After finishing high school, Aynaw enlisted in the IDF and served as an officer in the Military Police Corps.

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In February 2013, Aynaw rose to fame when she became the first Ethiopian-Israeli to be named Miss Israel. The next month, she was a guest at the state dinner held at the late President Shimon Peres’s residence during US President Barack Obama’s first official visit to Israel.

Aynaw’s current speaking tour marks the fifth time she has traveled to America to tell her story.

“I love visiting the US,” she said. “Whenever I’m here, I feel like it’s the land of dreams and I love to dream.”

During her US trips, Aynaw said, she has not encountered major hostility due to her Israeli identity.

“Everyone has been nice to me,” she said. “I have come across people with staunch political views, but they listened to my story with interest and asked me pleasant questions.”

Aynaw is currently studying international relations at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya. While her immediate career goals are focused on modeling — “I’d like to test my luck in the big market,” she said, referring to the US — Aynaw revealed she would eventually like to enter Israeli politics to advance the interests of the Jewish state’s Ethiopian community.

“Our integration into Israeli society is moving ahead, slowly but surely,” she said, noting the recent appointment of Israel’s first two Ethiopian judges.

Despite her interest in politics, Aynaw declined to divulge who she was rooting for in Tuesday’s US presidential election, saying that all she hoped was that the winner would be “good for Israel.”

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  • Joseph Feld

    People in the USA and Western Europe tend to have a stereotypical view of ‘Jews’ as Ashkenazim from Central and Eastern Europe. Jews from Ethiopia, Yemen, India, China are often unrecognised as Jews, as are Jews from Arab countries. Jews come in all colours, but this is often only obvious inside Israel.

  • TecumsehUnfaced

    hi

  • Helen4Yemen

    Are you sure?

  • Helen4Yemen

    Ethiopian Jews live in segregated communities as 3rd class citizens

  • Helen4Yemen

    Why do you call her ‘Ethiopian-Israeli’? Do you call the rest as:

    German-Israeli?
    Chinese-Israeli?
    Lithuanian-Israeli?
    Polish-Israeli?

    • Halli620

      First, why do you have a problem with this? Second, rather than as a country, it’s being used as the delineation, like Sephardi or Ashkenazi. There’s no need to find offense where the most likely reasons for the questioned action are benign.

    • pissmonger

      Within Israel if the specific lineage is of interest (if talking about heritage, culture, or discussion about equality) people would say multitude of things like
      “of Moroccan/Ethiopian/Polish descent” – is there a problem tho with the wording here?

  • schwarzerschwan

    Good to read this and good luck whenever life takes you.

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