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Ethiopian Israeli Stars on the Rise

A new pop singer and a new Miss Israel hit the mainstream

Adam Chandler
February 28, 2013

In what might be construed as either a coincidence, a rising trend, or a cultural rebuke against Israeli immigration policies, Ethopian stars seem to be making some serious headway in the Israeli cultural landscape.

First up, a friend of Tablet has pointed me in the direction of singer Ester Rada. I gave it a listen and was very pleasantly surprised. She’ll be making her way to the United States and Canada soon. Have a listen here:

Haaretz profiled Rada just last month.

Ester Rada was born in Kiryat Arba in 1985. Her parents and older brother immigrated to Israel the previous year from Ethiopia, and arrived there “courtesy of the State of Israel,” Rada says cynically. Her parents divorced when she was 3 and she has hardly seen her father since. Her mother worked most hours of the day, her brother (five years her elder ) was at a boarding school, and she spent most of her childhood alone. For a good part of it, she sang. At home she heard Ethiopian singers such as Mahmoud Ahmed and Aster Aweke but opted to flee her roots, only recently returning to them and trying to sing in Amharic.

Also making headlines recently is Yityish Aynaw, who made aliyah from Ethiopia when she was 12 and who was just named Miss Israel 2013 last night.

[Aynaw] said she hoped “to represent all Israelis” as Miss Israel, rather than specifically championing the cause of Ethiopian Israelis. She said it would be an honor to represent Israel on the international stage, and that she thought it would reflect well on Israel to have an Ethiopian-born beauty queen.

There you have it.

Adam Chandler was previously a staff writer at Tablet. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, Slate, Esquire, New York, and elsewhere. He tweets @allmychandler.