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November 26, 2014 / 4 Kislev, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘miss israel’

Film of Israeli Rape Victim Who Became Miss World, at AFI

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

This is not your typical beauty pageant story.

In just a few short weeks in 1998, 18 year old Netanya native Linor Abargil on a lark became Miss Israel, and then was brutally stabbed and raped while on a modeling trip in Milan.  She decided she could not allow the horror to defeat her.  Instead, she went on to compete and win the Miss World contest just seven weeks after the brutal assault.

For many, the idea that anyone can pull herself together and compete in an international contest just weeks after such an assault seems impossible; for Abargil, allowing the rapist to defeat her was more impossible.

She went forward with the competition although she told no one other than her immediate family, and the police, what had happened.  She never thought she would win, but she desperately needed something to fill her head that wasn’t about her ordeal.  Linor had no thoughts of winning the contest, she just wanted to be able to keep breathing.

When my name was announced as the winner, I was completely shocked. I thought I was the least fitting of all the contestants to serve as Miss World. I did not know how to go about making world peace, or feed all the hungry children in Africa, or find a cure for AIDS. I was not sure what would be the purpose of the crown on my head, but I had a very strong sense that both my rape, and winning the crown, had happened for a reason.

Initially she confessed to the Miss World officials that perhaps they had chosen the wrong woman, she did not see how she could keep up with the media appearances and traveling when what she most needed to do was to follow through on pressing charges and ensure that her attacker was convicted.

Amazingly, the pageant officials understood and allowed her to take the time necessary to ensure that justice was served.  But she also knew the issue was bigger than just her personal experience.

Abargil went around the world, speaking out about her ordeal, speaking with others who had also been sexually violated, working with survivors to help heal, working with those who work with survivors.  She testified in court at the trial, and the rapist was convicted and sentenced to 16 years in jail.

And then, ten years after her traumatic experience, Abargil concluded she should make a film to document her experience, and the experience of so many others she has met.

That film, “Brave Miss World,” is 92 minutes long, and was shot in Israel, Italy, the United States and in Africa.

“For anyone who is a victim of rape, I am stepping forward to help you tell your story,” is the message Abargil sent as she made the film.

The documentary explores not only her experience, how she was able to survive the violence, how she escaped, but also how she had the strength to do what so few rape victims do: speak out, and not do what most victims do: blame themselves, allow others to blame them, and hide.

During the course of making the documentary, Abargil’s rapist became eligible for parole.  The fear that Abargil had held at bay for so long came roaring back, and she had to once again face down the agony of reliving what happened.  But Abargil did more.  Not only did she provide testimony against his release, Abargil conducted her own investigation and uncovered the critical evidence that the man who raped her was a serial rapist – she found other women he had raped, and she added their voices to her own indictment.

In the film, Abargil spends time with child rape survivors in Soweto, Africa.  The stories told by the children, and the support Abargil shows them, is a moving testament to the strength of shared experiences. She also visited U.S. college campuses, always emphasizing how important it is to report the violence, and to do what is counter-intuitive, that is, not to destroy the evidence.

Despite her strength, there were times when the trauma pierced through.  One of the sources of support Abargil eventually found was through turning to Orthodox Judaism.  Her secular mother, the force whom Linor credited with providing her with the strength to survive the ordeal, had great difficulty with this change.

American Israeli Terror Victims Spurned by Obama, US Admin

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013

President Obama lands in Israel on Wednesday, March 20.  Perhaps on his flight someone will brief him on the American law which provides that those who commit acts of terrorism against Americans – anywhere in the world – will have to answer to the United States.

Right now terrorists must know that the U.S. is all talk, because despite the ever-increasing number of American victims of international terrorism, the U.S. rarely saddles up, heads out, and “gets their man.”  It certainly has never done so when the perpetrator of overseas terror against an American was a Palestinian Arab.

President Obama will only be in the Middle East for three days, starting Wednesday, March 2o. But while the time pressure will force him to skip certain sites, it is hard to imagine a better use of his time than to meet with American Israelis who have been terror victims and whose pleas for assistance can be easily met.

That is, unless this president, like the past several, and all of the US congress, doesn’t think it is absolutely essential to pursue terrorists who have maimed and murdered Americans abroad.

A section of the federal anti-terrorism law allows the U.S. to investigate, extradite (where there is a relevant treaty) and prosecute those who are believed to have murdered or maimed Americans in acts of terrorism committed outside of the United States.

This law was passed in 1985, following the brutal point-blank shooting death of Jewish American Leon Klinghoffer by Arab Palestinian terrorists who boarded the Achille Lauro off the coast of Egypt.

The terrorists boarded the vessel hoping to hold hostage the passengers, and then exchange them for Arab Palestinian terrorists who were being held in Israeli prisons. Sound familiar?

While the investigation of crimes overseas by American agents can be extremely expensive in terms of resources and manpower, that’s not a problem in cases where a foreign, respected judiciary – here, Israel – has already investigated, tried and convicted the violent criminals.  Which is exactly the case for the 1027 convicts released in the Gilad Shalit hostage exchange deal in 2011, 15 of whom have American blood on their hands.

What’s more, many of the convicts have publicly bragged about their acts of terrorism, and have pledged to continue their terrorist pursuits.

Also, unlike Israel, the U.S. is not barred from prosecuting the released convicts.  While Israel was blackmailed into releasing those terrorists and has foresworn prosecuting them again for the crimes for which they were imprisoned, the U.S. is under no such obligation.

So, this should be an easy case.

But tell that to Dr. Alan Bauer, who has been banging his head against the brick wall of the U.S. Justice Department for eight years, trying to get them to do exactly what this federal law was crafted, and enacted, to do.  Bauer, a Chicago-born, Harvard-trained biochemist and his then seven-year old son were seriously wounded in a homicide bombing in Jerusalem on King George Street, eleven years ago, on March 21, 2002.

Or tell it to Sherry and Seth Mandell, whose 13-year old son Koby was stabbed and beaten to death with rocks by Arab Palestinians in the spring of 2001.  The Mandells moved to Israel from Maryland in 1996, in the wake of the Oslo Accords.  The Mandell family moved, hoping to live in peace with their Arab neighbors.

Nearly ten years ago the US congress directed that an office within the Justice Department, the “Office for Victims of Overseas Terrorism,” be created to “ensure that the investigation and prosecution of terrorist attacks against American citizens overseas remain a high priority within the Department of Justice.”

The OVT is responsible for monitoring the investigation and prosecution of terrorist attacks against Americans abroad,” but not a single terrorist has ever been pursued by this office.  Oh, files are open and updated, but that’s it.

A nasty notation in a file in the OVT has never, and one can be assured will never, stop a terrorist from maiming or murdering Americans anywhere.

The answers Bauer and the others have received to their many dozens of pleas to those in the OVT- when there is any response at all – is “thank you for sharing your views.  We share your concern.”  In other words, absolutely nothing of any value.

Visa Limits Force Miss Israel to Miss Out on US Event for IDF

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

Yityish Aynaw may have a meeting set up with President Barack Obama when he travels to Israel later this week, but getting one with a U.S. embassy employee in Tel Aviv is a more difficult task.

Israel’s first beauty queen of Ethiopian Jewish descent was unable to attend a Friends of the Israel Defense Forces event in New York on March 12 because she could not get a visa on time.

“We had just three days to issue a visa,” an organizer was quoted by the Israeli news website of Yediot Acharonot as saying. “Bureaucratically, it was impossible.”

Congressmen Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) and Ted Poe (R-Tex.) have drafted a bill that would waive visa restrictions for Israelis, but the legislation is currently stuck because of Israel’s relatively high visa rejection rate.

Israeli officials recently asked younger citizens not to travel to the U.S. unless necessary in order to reduce the rate of visa rejections.

Miss Israel: I’ll Ask my Role Model Obama to Free Pollard (VIDEO)

Thursday, March 14th, 2013

President Obama’s advance team insisted that Yityish Aynaw, the first Ethiopian Miss Israel, be included on the guest list for the official state dinner President Shimon Peres will host for the U.S. president.  At the time, they probably did not think it was necessary to do extensive background checks on the young woman.  What could be problematic about a beautiful African young woman who came to Israel as an orphan at the age of 12, and now reigns as the beauty queen of this Middle Eastern country?

But a potentially problematic YouTube video has surfaced.  Unlike a video which tanked the former Miss Delaware, forcing her to relinquish her crown, Miss Israel’s video is unlikely to harm her reputation within her domain.  The former Miss Delaware’s YouTube video confirmed rumors that she had made a pornographic movie, and it was later revealed that she was paid for her participation in that movie.

Miss Israel’s YouTube video, which is a clip of an interview aired on Israeli Ch 2 news on Wednesday, March 13, reveals something quite interesting, but utterly non-salacious.

The interviewer asks Aynaw, “What will you tell Obama when you meet him?”

She answers, “That he is a role model for me, and second, that he should free Pollard.”

Aynaw explains that she was very active while in high school – she was head of the student council – working on many different activities to help free Pollard.  She explained to the interviewer that she knows the story very well, and that if she has the opportunity, “lama lo? (why not?)”

So far there has been no response from the White House.

Jonathan Pollard has been in prison since 1987.  He was an American naval intelligence analyst in the early 1980′s when he passed certain classified information to the Israeli government. No other person who was convicted of obtaining classified information for an ally of the U.S. has served in prison as long as has Pollard, and several who were convicted of spying for enemies of the U.S. were released after serving shorter sentences.

On Wednesday, March 13, Jonathan Pollard and his wife, Esther, released a statement calling on all Israelis to show the utmost respect to President Obama during his visit to the Jewish state, according to the Jerusalem Post. This statement was made in response to a call from an Israeli politician to boycott President Obama’s speech if the president does not bring the Pollard home to Israel with him.

“Esther and Jonathan Pollard join the Committee to Bring Jonathan Pollard Home in urging the public to refrain from any action that may impugn the honor of the State of Israel by conveying, even inadvertently, any hint of disrespect or dishonor towards our official distinguished visitor,” the Pollards said in a statement. “We call upon the Israeli public to welcome President Obama to our country and to behave at all times with all due respect and honor towards the president of the United States.”

Obama to Dine with Miss Israel

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013

Ethiopian-born Miss Israel, who was crowned only two weeks ago, will dine with President Barack Obama at President Shimon Peres’ official residence next week, Army Radio reported Wednesday.

Obama’s staff invited Miss Israel, otherwise known as Yityish Aynaw, who also was an officer in the IDF.

The appearance of a black Jewess, from Africa no less, dining with the first black American president, who has roots in Kenya, is a PR dream for Israel, which finally will get enthusiastically positive media coverage.

Aynaw will also have plenty of good copy for the herds of journalists who will be covering President Obama’s three-day visit.

Her relatives in Israel brought her from Ethiopia when she was 12 years old.

The Ethiopian community has suffered prejudice in Israel, particularly but not only from Russian Jews, whose culture and tradition are the antithesis of that of Ethiopians.

Like many Ethiopians, whose Jewish beliefs are deep-rooted, she was told that milk comes out of faucets and gold coins are in the streets of Israel.

After being named Miss Israel at the age of 21, she said that Martin Luther King Jr. was one of her heroes because “he fought for justice and equality, and… I want to show that my community has many beautiful qualities that aren’t always represented in the media.”

Correct politics probably had a part in her winning the beauty competition. Former Miss Israel winners have included a Russian immigrant and an Arab. Pageant director Iris Cohen told the Tablet, “I think she was not the most beautiful, by classic beauty, [but] she stands on the stage and you cannot ignore her.”

Now decked out in dresses far more fancy than the ones she sold in a store, she speaks her mind.

Unlike previous foreign-born pageant winners and many new immigrants from Ethiopia who adopted Hebrew names, she told Tablet, “I was born sick, but my mom believed I had a future,” and she explained that Yityish is Amharic for “look,” or as Aynaw explains, “looking toward the future.”

“I’d never change my name,” said Aynaw. “Ever.”

Some of My Best Friends Are…

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

I am not one to follow beauty pageants. Least of all those held in Israel. I am not going to get into the Halachic issues here – which do exist. As it pertains to this post it is a side issue. I am, however, going to get into another troubling issue – that of racism.

An article in the Forward cites an Israeli journalist that actually asks the question about whether Yityish Aynaw deserved to win the title Miss Israel. I don’t think that question has ever been asked before about any other winner of that title. No matter what she looked like. Why did he ask it here? Can anyone guess? Well, just in case you hadn’t noticed, the color of her skin is black. Here is what he said:

“I think it is really great that an Ethiopian-born woman won our national beauty pageant, I really do. If she were also beautiful it would have been even better.” Right! He thinks it’s great! And some of his best friends are…

What a disgusting comment! It is truly sickening when skin color becomes an issue in any circumstance. To say that someone who won a contest is not really all that beautiful but was chosen for political reasons in only this case is an insult to both the winner and to an entire race of people.

It is also an insult to me and to anyone with any sense of human dignity. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. That this journalist doesn’t think she is beautiful may in fact be true. Maybe he doesn’t. I will even grant that beauty pageants are political and winners are chosen for reasons other than physical beauty.

But this has always been true. And yet I don’t ever recall anyone saying that a beauty contest winner in Israel was not beautiful enough to have won. To do so now seems to show a certain degree of racism that is deeply buried in the unconscious mind of that journalist. He probably isn’t even aware of his own racial bias. Or… maybe he is and is disguising it by putting it in political terms.

Israel has recently been accused of racist tactics with respect to its Ethiopian immigrants. I don’t know how true that is. Although there is racism among some of its citizens as was pointed out last month by an op-ed in Ynet. But when journalist post messages like this on his Facebook page I think it exposes a certain degree of it. Even if it is only in the unconscious mind.

The unconscious mind dictates a lot of how humankind behaves. Decisions are often made that are racially biased and yet not realized as such by the decision makers.

I do not mean to impugn Israel. It is not a racist state. Far from it – despite accusations to the contrary. No one has done more for the plight of Ethiopian Jewry than the State of Israel. They have attempted mightily to mainstream these new immigrants and have achieved a measure of success in doing so. The fact that Miss Israel was an officer in the IDF at age 21 demonstrates that.

But the fact that there still exists this kind of subliminal thinking seems to be true as well. When journalists question why a black woman won a beauty contest – even if it is disguised as referring only to this particular black woman – it impacts on public opinion. I think that is sad. That he said it only on his Facebook page – perhaps thinking only his “Friends” would see it – makes it even sadder. That would mean he knew his comment wasn’t all that Kosher.

I’m sure that there are many (hopefully most) Israelis that do not have a prejudice bone in their bodies. But obviously there are some who do have a bone or two in their bodies that is prejudiced

Those who do, like this journalist – need to work on their attitudes and root out any and all prejudice whether conscious or not. It is the right thing to do.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/haemtza/some-of-my-best-friends-are/2013/03/06/

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