When President Barack Obama visits Israel next week he will meet with the nation’s first ever Ethiopian-born Miss Israel.
Yityish Aynaw, a 21-year-old Ethiopian immigrant, was awarded the title and was the first ever to claim the pageant win.
There are about 120,000 Jews of Ethiopian origin living in Israel, about a third of them were born in Israel.
“It’s important that a member of the Ethiopian community win the competition for the first time,” she was recorded answering to judges during the pageant. “There are many different communities of many different colors in Israel, and it’s important to show that to the world.”
Following her victory, Aynaw received a special invitation to meet and dine with President Obama and Israeli President Shimon Peres during Obama’s upcoming trip to the Middle Eastern country.
Relations between Israel and its Ethiopian community have been strained to say the least. In January it was reported that the Israeli government had tacitly acknowledged injecting Ethiopian women immigrating to the country with a long-acting contraceptive without their knowledge, telling them they couldn’t come into the country if they didn’t take the shot, which the women thought was a vaccination.
Many called the practice appallingly racist.
The shots were widely blamed for a 50 percent drop in the birth rate in Israel’s Ethiopian community over the past decade.
There had long been conspiracy theories circulating about forced sterilization. But after a documentary aired last month on Israel’s Educational Network, Health Ministry Director General Ron Gamzu banned Israel’s health maintenance organizations from injecting Ethiopian women with the contraceptive Depo-Provera.
Other Africans in the country have also had a tough go of things. Last year, Israel’s Interior Minister reportedly launched a plan to begin rounding up and imprisoning Sudanese immigrants living in the country.
Immigrants from Sudan, including refugees from Darfur, were reportedly given until Oct. 15 to leave the country voluntarily.
Aynaw’s victory could be seen as a win for many of the African immigrants within the growing Middle Eastern nation.
When asked why she was given the distinct honor to attend, Aynaw said in a Jerusalem Post piece that she is “the first black Miss Israel to be chosen and [Obama] is the first black American president. These go together.”
After moving to Israel at the age of 12, working as a clothing store sales assistant and joining the army, the opportunity once seemed like a far-fetched idea and Aynaw “didn’t think that such a thing could happen to her,” The Grio reported.
Aynaw credited Atlanta-born civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. for having a large influence on who she has become.
“He fought for justice and equality, and that’s one of the reasons I’m here,” she said. “I want to show that my community has many beautiful qualities that aren’t always represented in the media.”