2013: Israel Showcases its Move Toward Diversity: Israel Crowns Its First Black Miss Israel and First Black Parliamentarian

By now most of the world has heard the news or maybe not since this has received very limited global media attention outside of specific internet outlets, that Israel started 2013 on the path to a more inclusive Israel by electing Pnina Tamano-Shata as its first Black parliamentarian in January and then in February crowned Yityish Aynaw as its first Black Miss Israel.  As new as the African & Israel relationship maybe –the African and Judaism religious observance goes way back for centuries with more and more modern day Africans discovering, acknowledging and claiming their Jewish roots. As much as Israel has gotten bad press from its occupation and modern day Apartheid practices against the Palestinians, along with its contentious relationship with Black Africans in Israel – both Jewish and non-Jewish, it seems that many are skeptical that a beauty pageant nor 1 seat in parliament can be a catalyst for a way forward in Israel’s racial and religious discriminatory legacy debated throughout the world. With the recent ouster of African refugees from Israel and the admission by the health ministry director that Israeli doctors had forcibly (without knowledge nor consent) injected African immigrants, mostly Ethiopian Jewish women with birth control; Israel definitely has had  racial scandals on their hands in need of some good global public relations and damage control before it loses all credibility and favor with the world outside of America’s unwavering loyalty.

It is unfortunate that the new Miss Israel along with Israel’s first Black parliamentarian just by being Black and Jewish will now carry the burden of Israel’s politics on their shoulders as they represent their nation on a global scale as their elected leader and ambassador and face of  Israeli beauty. It is a shame that skeptics will not allow Yityish Aynaw nor Pnina Tamano-Shatato to bask in their glory of winning their prestigious honors on their own merits as apposed to being some sort of affirmative action induction to offset Israel’s recent bad press of conspiring to bring population control amongst their fellow Ethiopian Jewish women and ongoing racially divisive xenophobia spewed by many of Israel’s politicians in the ouster of African refugees. Israel despite all of its racial and religious conflicts has been making strides within to become a more inclusive nation particularly amongst its large Ethiopian Jewish population brought in through its “Operation Moses” initiative  started in 1984 to build its numbers in Israel.  These women seem to to be getting limited international press despite their achievement, and when mentioned to many global Africans at home and abroad- the news of this is met with shock and awe in not even knowing that there has been a significant Black African population in Israel for years along with a growing African-American population. Perhaps the people of Israel are above their politics/ politicians. I hope the new Miss Israel and newly elected parliamentarian will use their platforms wisely, even though there will be limitations to addressing most of the real issues faced by Ethiopian descent Israelis and the growing global African descendant population in Israel. Slowly but surely Ethiopian Jews are making strides in a more inclusive Israel from parliament to beauty, and for that we must applaud the people of Israel for standing up for a better more inclusive Israel despite its global exclusionary politics.

21-year-old Yityish Aynaw was crowned Miss Israel for 2013. The occasion marked the first time an Ethiopian Israeli had won the national beauty pageant...Despite the landmark moment, I have to be honest: I was more excited when Pnina Tamano-Shata, a lawyer and member of the Yesh Atid party, was recently elected the first female Ethiopian Member of Knesset…I am obviously far more into brains than beauty. But not everyone is, and rather than hate on this breakthrough moment for Israeli women of color, it would be far more productive to look at the positives associated with Aynaw’s achievement…First, the fact that black is finally beautiful in Israel is a big step forward. Aynaw, a shoe store manager from Netanya, could not look more different from many of the pretty faces that have graced Israeli fashion magazines over the years and represented the blue and white on fashion runways around the world. Now, young Israeli girls will know that they don’t need to aspire to be a carbon copy of tall, wavy-haired blond models like Bar Refaeli and Michaela Bercu (who appeared on the cover of Anna Wintour’s first issue of “Vogue”)…“READ MORE

A female Ethiopian Jew, Pnina Tamano-Shata, was elected to Knesset yesterday as number 14 on the Yesh Atid Knesset list. She is the first Ethiopian woman to be elected to serve in the Knesset…Tamano-Shata – immigrated to Israel from Ethiopia when she was three-years-old – is an attorney. She has also worked as a reporter for Israel’s Channel 1 News.“I want to promote as much legislation [as possible]relating to equality and affordable housing. The middle class understands and knows exactly what it wants. It gave us its trust,” she told Channel 2 last night after Yesh Atid’s strong showing at the polls – 19 Knesset seats won – became clear… READ MORE

Two days before submitting the party’s Knesset candidacy to the Central Election Committee I didn’t know where in the list I was placed, but it didn’t really matter because I knew I was going on a journey I really believed in,” she said. “When I heard I was salted at number 14 I was happy, because I think it means something. It wasn’t a star-studded list, like some people expected it to be; it’s a very diverse list.” At the age of three, Pnina emigrated from Ethiopia as part of Operation Moses. Under “date of birth,” her Israeli ID reads November 1, 1981 – a date she picked out herself, as there were no accurate documents indicating her date of birth…Tamano-Shata spent the first few years in Israel with her family at a facility run by the Immigrant Absorption Ministry and in 1988, the family moved to Petah Tikva, where she has been residing ever since – nowadays with her husband and her two children…READ MORE

UPDATE 3/21/13
Let the politicization of beauty commence:

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