On Wednesday, 21-year-old Yityish Aynaw was crowned Miss Israel for 2013. The occasion marked the first time an Ethiopian Israeli had won the national beauty pageant.
Despite the landmark moment, I have to be honest: I was more excited when Pnina Tamano-Shata, a lawyer and member of the Yesh Atid party, was recently elected the first female Ethiopian Member of Knesset.
I am obviously far more into brains than beauty. But not everyone is, and rather than hate on this breakthrough moment for Israeli women of color, it would be far more productive to look at the positives associated with Aynaw’s achievement.
The recent admission by the state of Israel that it has been clandestinely using Depo-Provera, contraceptive injection containing the hormone progestin, on Ethiopian Israeli women is just the beginning. Israel must apologize and make restitution to the victims.
There should be an apology by no less than the Prime Minister, not only to Ethiopian Jews but to all Jews worldwide, that their leaders are sorry for participating in such a deplorable and inhumane act.
Israel’s behavior goes far beyond insensitivity, bureaucratic ineptitude or an everlasting cultural-gap between Ethiopian and non-Ethiopian Israelis. And it is now approaching borderline racism. There are many reasons to question the state’s attitude towards the Ethiopian community, including the disposal of donated Ethiopian blood due to a perceived fear of AIDS transmittal; an apparent institutionalized housing racism that was loudly protested exactly one year ago, as well as the forced “conversion” of many Ethiopian Jews upon their relocation to Israel.