Thursday evening, while doing my usual patrol for news, I came across a BuzzFeed article,”First Black Miss Israel: I’m Not Ashamed To Say There Is Racism In Israel.” Needless to say that as a young, black, female, and a student of international affairs I was intrigued.
The BuzzzFeed article is a different take on Israel;a different perspective on the state of the country other than the current Israeli/Palestine conflict. The article is good PR for the country. After reading about Yityish “Titi” Aynaw, the first Miss Israel of Ethiopian descent, I walked away with a sense of a deeper understanding of the country and its problems.
Many Ethiopians have settled in Israel over the last 30 years as part of the Israeli government’s refugee program. Aynaw immigrated to Israel at the age of 12 – after the death of both her parents – to live with her grandmother. While Aynaw’s experienced a smooth transition acculturating in her new home, many other Ethiopians immigrating to Israel to seek asylum or refuge have not been so smooth. There is evidence that Ethiopian women were sterilized by command of the Israeli government to prevent an increase of the Ethiopian population in Israel.
Despite the resistance to fully welcome Ethiopian refugees into the country Aynaw was still able to have a normal life and even claim title to “Miss Israel”. While serving as Miss Israel, the 22 year old, came to the United States on the invitation of the Israeli Embassy. During her time in the US she traveled to several major cities along the Eastern Seaboard. Her time here in country put a new face on the country and started a new dialogue.
Aynaw story is a form of public diplomacy because it changes the narrative. It shows a different side of Israel giving another snapshot of the country’s struggles and its progression. Aynaw is an effective form of soft power. Her title as Miss Israel tells the world sends the message that Israel is a nation that includes all its inhabitants and recognizes the diversity of the nation.