Contestants in The pageant in 2021 Miss Universe pageant enjoy a pleasant day at the beach in the Dead Sea on December 1 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Peace in the world: It’s the most satirized and cliched beauty pageant contestant’s answer that question: What she would like to see for the most. At this year’s 70th Miss Universe competition, slated to take place this Saturday in Eilat, the most southern Israeli city Eilat the scent of peace will surely be in the air.
First time, Bahrain — which established normal relations with Israel in the year before — has a contestant in the international contest. Morocco has also renewed diplomatic relations with Israel in 2012, is taking part in the contest as the only time it has been since. It is also participating for the first time since 1978. United Arab Emirates had also planned to make its first appearance in the contest however, it was not able to participate due to time and COVID restrictions.
With close to 80 women from all over the globe descending upon Eilat — following a tour of Eilat all the way from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the Dead Sea and more -the diversity of the different languages, cultures and backgrounds is in some ways an elegant model for the United Nations.
It’s been an amazing experience.” Miss Morocco, Kawtar Benhalima said to The Times of Israel from Eilat on Thursday, “because of the historical aspect, as I’m here for Miss Universe, because I learn every day.”
Benhalim 22, who is 22 years old, reported that she was “pleasantly amazed by the number of people (in Israelwho tell me that their grandparents and parents were Moroccan. It’s amazing that I am able to truly feel and be aware of the connection.” About half one million Moroccan Jews are believed to be living in Israel and make it one of the largest Moroccan expat communities around the globe.
Miss Bahrain, Manar “Jess” Deyani, has declined to meet with local media. However, the design student of 25 living in Dubai said to The National that she was enjoying her trip to Israel as well as meeting fellow contestants as well as representing her country.
“I am the shortest candidate in Miss Universe history, the first Miss Universe Bahrain and the first one to represent Gulf countries, so I think [of] it more as a responsibility,” the petite contestant said to the site that publishes news.
And Turkey which has a turbulent relationship with Israel are a bit of an emotional rollercoaster, sent 22-year old pupil Cemrenaz Turhan to this year’s competition in Eilat.
“I really love this place, it feels like home,” Turhan stated to The Times of Israel. “Our cultures have so much in common.”
Even with the return Morocco and the launch of Bahrain and other countries, a few decided to stay out of the competition — which is held seven months following the COVID-delayed last Miss Universe.
Malaysia which has participated in the contest nearly every year over the last sixty years, announced the month of August it will not take part this year because of the COVID virus, which forced Malaysia to pull out of the country’s very own Miss Malaysia pageant. Many observers believed that Malaysia’s inability to acknowledge Israel is the primary reason that led to the decision. This calendar year Malaysia has banned Israeli athletes from coming into the country to participate at an international squash tournament which led the sport’s international body to call off the event…
Indonesia is a country that has no diplomatic ties to Israel was also absent from this year’s festival despite participating for many years. It announced in late November that “tight preparation time and local COVID-19 restrictions” resulted in the decision.
The South African government withdrew its support for Miss South Africa, Lalela Mswane, following her choice to compete in the contest in Israel. However, Mswane has defied calls to not participate in the competition in Israel and is posting pictures from all over Israel via social media.
Naturally, many contestants have come under the scrutiny of negative online commentsusually from organised BDS activist groups — regarding their decision to participate however they’ve said that they will not take any criticism.
“Of course I saw comments like that, but I’m not a politician, I came here for a competition,” stated Turkey’s Turhan. “I love all countries. I didn’t even think for a moment that I’d boycott Israel I’m not thinking about it.
“I’m very happy to be here, the Israeli people are so kind and so amazing,” she said. “Miss Universe’s the best venue to show the world we’re all brothers and sisters We’re all one and we have the same blood color. This contest is, to me is the ideal place to showcase this.”
Morocco’s Benhalim stated that she felt extremely welcomed in Israel and did not have any desire to mix politics and competition.
“Nothing is black and white, nothing is ever as simple as it seems,” she added. “And so I personally just try to take a step back from what is being said, while doing some research and some learning from my end, and also separating politics from the people.”