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Obama to Break Bread with Black Miss Israel

Dinner with Ethiopian-born Yityish Aynaw on president’s Israel itinerary

Natalie Schachar
March 13, 2013
Yityish Aynaw on the cover of Laisha Magazine.(Sasson Moshe.)
Yityish Aynaw on the cover of Laisha Magazine.(Sasson Moshe.)

First the Miss Israel tiara, then a meal with the leader of the free world. After receiving an exclusive invite to next week’s gala dinner celebrating President Obama’s trip to Israel, newly-crowned Ethiopian-born beauty queen Yityish Aynaw is well on her way to becoming an Israeli diplomat. As of now, the guest list for the event includes Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Army Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, and Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, and Aynaw has reportedly sparked no small bit of envy among other high-powered politicos.

Despite the fact that Obama’s Israel policy has been staunchly debated, almost everyone seems to be bidding to see the president during his three-day trip to the Holy Land. At one point, the U.S. Embassy in Israel even thought that a Facebook contest would be the fairest way to give away tickets to his keynote speech in Jerusalem.

Aynaw scored an invite to the dinner when White House officials heard that she was the first black immigrant to be crowned Miss Israel. She has also said that she looks to Obama as an influential role model.

As Daniel Estrin wrote today in his profile of Aynaw:

In October 2012, while most of her friends traveled to popular post-army destinations in India and Thailand, Aynaw spent the savings she’d earned in the army on a ticket to Addis Ababa. She wanted to come to terms with her mother’s death and face her history. “I never looked at her photos, I never talked about her. I decided to erase everything,” she said. It was a defense mechanism: “I needed to succeed,” she added. “I don’t have parents that I can crash with till I’m a 40 year old.”

All Aynaw needs is an invite from menschy New York Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera when he visits Israel later this year, and she’ll be golden.

Natalie Schachar is an editorial intern at Tablet. A recent graduate of Barnard College, she has written for the Times of Israel, The Atlantic, The Argentina Independent and Lilith Magazine.