'I have butterflies in my stomach.' Yityish (Titi) Aynaw
Photo: Rachel Cadars
US President Barack Obama
VIDEO – As hundreds and maybe even thousands of Israelis are hoping to receive an invitation to listen to Barack Obama's speech at the Jerusalem International Convention Center, one lucky young woman has been invited to dine with the American president.
The organizers of Obama's upcoming visit to Israel have included the new Miss Israel, Ethiopian-born Yityish (Titi) Aynaw, on the exclusive guest list to the gala dinner hosted by President Shimon Peres in honor of the US leader. "I have butterflies in my stomach," the 22-year-old beauty queen admitted Wednesday.
Video courtesy of jn1.tv
The special team that arrived in the country to organize Obama's visit began looking for the new Miss Israel several days ago. On Monday, one of the team's representatives asked Ethiopian-born activists for their help in contacting Titi after reading about her story.
The connection was finally established on Tuesday, and Obama's staff invited Aynaw to participate in the festive meal which will be held next Thursday at the President's Residence in Jerusalem.
Only 120 people have been invited to the event, including the prime minister, the IDF chief of staff and the Knesset speaker. As she dines with the American president, Israel's first Ethiopian-born beauty queen may get the opportunity to share her unusual story with him.
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Aynaw was born in a small town in Gondar. Her father was killed in a war when she was only two years old, and her mother raised her and her brother – who is one year older than her – alone.
When she was 12 years old, her mother died, and Titi and her brother were sent to live with their aunt. Later on, they immigrated to Israel, lived with their grandparents in Netanya and studied together at the Kfar Hasidim religious youth village.
"I'm very excited," Titi said Wednesday. "I never dreamed of reaching such an honorable position. I have butterflies in my stomach.
"Ten years ago," she added, "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."
Aynaw said Barack Obama was the subject of her final high school paper in English. "He is the first black president of the United States. For me, he is a role model who has pushed boundaries. He is a source of inspiration, proving that any person can reach the top, regardless of their religion, race or gender."