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Ethiopian-born Yityish Aynaw is about to experience one of many unforgettable moments as the first black Miss Israel: Dining with President Obama. The African beauty was invited by Pres. Obama’s staff to a gala dinner honoring him hosted by Israeli President Shimon Peres in Jerusalem on Thursday. It is the president’s first visit to the country as President of the United States.
The beauty queen told reporters, “I have butterflies in my stomach.” She reminisced on her troubled past: “Ten years ago, I was walking around barefoot in Ethiopia and I never imagined that one day I would be in the land of Israel, meeting the Israeli president and the president of the United States. I could never have imagined such a powerful and exciting situation.” The young woman has truly overcome tragedy after tragedy ever since she was a toddler. Aynaw’s father was killed in a war when she was two-year-old, and she and her older brother were raised by their mother, who also died when she was 12. She and her brother later relocated to Israel, where they lived with their grandparents, according to news reports.
Aynaw believes she received the exclusive invite to meet Pres. Obama because of their shared African heritage. She is “the first black Miss Israel to be chosen and [Obama] is the first black American president,” she told The Jerusalem Post, adding: “These go together.” The event is very exclusive, with only 120 guests invited. Aynaw’s upcoming appearance at the gala has been met with a lot of criticism. When a local reporter asked her what she plans to say to Pres. Obama, the beauty queen said “That he is a role model for me, and second, that he should free Pollard.” Jonathan Pollard, a former U.S. naval intelligence analyst, was convicted of spying for Israel and has been serving a life sentence in a U.S. prison since 1987. Aynaw’s political agenda didn’t sit well with some people. Some critics are also accusing her of putting Pres. Obama ahead of important politicians and influential Israelis.