Forward Thinking

Miss Israel Falls Short of Ruling Universe

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Titi Aynaw may not have been crowned Miss Universe 2013, but she did Israelis proud by representing her country in the international pageant in Moscow, Russia.

The first black Miss Israel failed to make it in to the semi-finals of the competition, despite our urging everyone to vote online for her. Gabriela Isler, Venezuela’s beauty queen, beat out other finalists from Ecuador, Brazil, Spain, and the Philippines to take the title.

It was a bit disappointing that Aynaw did not even make it in to the round of 16, especially since she was an early favorite among many. Nikkiii, a Brazilian beauty expert from the Missology website, who has an accurate prediction track record, even projected Aynaw as the winner.

Nonetheless, it looked as though Aynaw had a good time at the pageant, taking part in the preliminary national costume, swimsuit and evening gown competitions. We, for one, thought she looked fetching in her national costume, a white and gold ensemble seemingly inspired by two very different biblical personages: Aaron, the High Priest, and the Queen of Sheba. In a parade of what can only be described as a colorful explosion of national motifs on sexy steroids, Aynaw looked relatively demure and classy.

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Vote Titi Aynaw (for Miss Universe)!

By Renee Ghert-Zand

The Forward is a non-profit news organization and as such is barred from telling you whom to vote for. There’s also this little thing called journalistic integrity. But we have decided to toss both policies out the window — just this once.

Vote for Titi! There, we said it. Let the IRS do what it may.

Israel’s reigning beauty queen, Ethiopian-born Titi Aynaw needs your support.

Aynaw, 22, is in Moscow to compete for the 2013 Miss Universe title. If she gets the most votes in an online public poll, she will automatically have a guaranteed place in the semi-final level of the competition.

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Ethiopians and Birth Control — Culture or Chemicals?

By Nathan Jeffay

What is bringing down the birth rates of Israel’s Ethiopian immigrants — culture or chemicals?

A new study by the nonpartisan Knesset Research and Information Center found that while Ethiopian Jews traditionally have large families, by 2010 those who arrived in the preceding decade were actually having fewer kids than other Israelis. They were having 1.78, which is 38 percent below the average for Israeli-born women, 2.88.

This study follows a television report last year that alleged that Ethiopian immigrant women were coerced into taking contraceptive shots in transit camps in Ethiopia when waiting to move to Israel, and that they continued to receive the shots in Israel. The Health Ministry wrote to HMOs inferring that there are some Ethiopian women who receive the shots in Israel without fully understanding what they contain — and urged gynecologists “not to renew prescriptions for Depo-Provera for women of Ethiopian origin if for any reason there is concern that they might not understand the ramifications of the treatment.”

Gal Gabbay, the documentary-maker who made produced the television report on the contraceptive shots, says that following the new Knesset report she feels vindicated. “The numbers speak for themselves,” she told Forward Thinking, saying that she is “sure” that the contraceptive shots are behind the drop in birth rates.

But the authors of the study found themselves unable to substantiate the claims of her report, and left the matter of the contraceptive shots as something of an open question. Of course, there are many who say that a reduction in birth rates is expected among an immigrant population encountering completely new, Western cultural norms — especially when it’s one of the poorest segments of society.

This reading of the figures isn’t only coming from outside the Ethiopian community. Shai Sium, a 34-year-old resident of the Southern Israel town of Kiryat Malachi and an Ethiopian-born activist for Ethiopian rights, says that young parents like him “don’t want to have a lot of children in Israel and can’t afford a lot of children.”

He holds himself up as an example. “I have two kids and I decided to have three kids because I want to raise them well.”

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Did Israel Want Ethiopians on Birth Control?

By Nathan Jeffay

getty images

More questions are raised than answered with an Israeli government official’s letter on the birth control scandal in the country’s Ethiopian community.

Health Ministry Director General Ron Gamzu has instructed HMOs to stop injecting women of Ethiopian-born women with the long-acting contraceptive Depo-Provera. The background is that last month an Israeli television report alleged that Ethiopian immigrant women were coerced into taking contraceptive shots in transit camps in Ethiopia when waiting to move to Israel, and continue to receive the shots in Israel.

Gamzu has not confirmed in so many words that women have been coerced to take the contraceptive, but has indicated that there are Ethiopian women who don’t understand exactly what they’re taking and why. His letter instructs gynecologists “not to renew prescriptions for Depo-Provera for women of Ethiopian origin if for any reason there is concern that they might not understand the ramifications of the treatment.” (To be clear, Gamzu did not indicate that the government is responsible for the situation, but just that it must stop.)

This is a step forward from the previous situation that saw everyone, in Israel and the Diaspora, denying knowledge of a problem, but it’s far from the comprehensive investigation needed in to such a serious matter.

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