Miss Israel to Join State Dinner with Obama

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- Israel's first Ethiopian-born winner of the Miss Israel pageant has been invited to the state dinner in honor of President Barack Obama. The dinner will be held at President Shimon Peres' residence in Jerusalem.

Yityish Aynaw, 21, was crowned this year's Miss Israel a few weeks ago at the International Convention Center in Haifa. Her name, in Amharic, means "a look to the future." She was 12 when she immigrated to Israel with her family.

Before winning the coveted title, she told the panel of judges, "It's important that a member of the Ethiopian community wins the competition for the first time."

"There are many different communities of many different colors in Israel, and it's important to show that to the world," she said, promising "to represent all Israelis."

When the judges asked her what historical figure influenced her most, she named the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., saying she wanted to emulate his fight for "justice and equality" for Israel's Ethiopian community.

"He fought for justice and equality and that's one of the reasons I'm here," she told the judges. "I want to show that my community has many beautiful qualities that aren't always represented well in the media."

After completing her compulsory military duty with an officer's rank, Aynaw has been working as a saleswoman at a clothing store, though she plans to continue her modeling career.

"I hope to become a successful model thanks to the contest and create a change in the perception of dark-skinned models," she said.

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