First Ethiopian Miss Israel speaks at Hillel event on Boca campus

Yityish Aynaw travels the country visiting college campuses to talk about Israel’s achievements.


Yityish Aynaw speaks to students, staff and guests at the Hillel of Broward and Palm Beach on the Boca campus on March 22. Photo courtesy of Or Greenwald.

Benjamin Paley, Contributing Writer

A young girl leaves her familiar surroundings in the village of Chahawit, Ethiopia for the big city of Tel-Aviv, Israel. Yityish Aynaw, known as Titi, was only 12 years old, and for her, the big buildings in her new home were a bit overwhelming; not to mention the fact that she now had to wear shoes everyday — in her village in Ethiopia, she would never wear shoes.

In collaboration with the Jewish National Fund and Media Watch, the Hillel of Broward and Palm Beach hosted Aynaw as part of their weekly “Lunch and Learn” program on the Boca campus of FAU on March 22.Wednesday. Aynaw works with a program called “Positively Israel,” an initiative that seeks to emphasize how the work done by Israel at home and around the world has made the world a better place.

Aynaw is the first Ethiopian to be crowned Miss Israel, an achievement that she has used to travel the world speaking at college campuses about the wonderful things happening in Israel — a major achievement for a 25 year old black women who was brand new to the beauty industry.

Her life story is full of hurdles and challenges that she has had to overcome. Among her many achievements include service in the Israel Defense Force as a platoon commander over 300 male trainees.

“When I was crowned Miss Israel, the soldiers I had trained called me and told me that they were surprised to see me smile,” Aynaw said.

Aynaw spoke about the work she has done since being crowned Miss Israel, including starting a project titled “Project Titi,” a program that provides youth in Israel with parents who work a place to go to be productive with their time after school.

She also spoke about being a new immigrant in Israel and how she had to learn Hebrew very quickly so she could progress in school. Aynaw’s teacher started an initiative in her class called “Project Titi,” no relation to Aynaw’s later project, in which everyday one girl in her class would take Aynaw aside and teach her a new word in Hebrew.

Benjamin Paley is a contributing writer with the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet him @benpaley92.