Tuvia Book
Author, educator, Tour-Guide, artist

A Model Role Model: Yityish (Titi) Aynaw, Miss Israel 2013

Yesterday I had the privilege to meet with Yityish (Titi) Aynaw, Miss Israel 2013.  She is really someone to look up to, not only because she is over six feet tall! Ms. Aynaw is someone who is a role model for our youth, and indeed for all of us.  Titi overcame tremendous adversity to reach her present point of life as a representative of her adopted country.

titi idf

Titi during her IDF service as an Officer in the Military Police

Whilst many of Israel’s Ethiopian Jewish community can trace their roots in the country to the two dramatic airlifts of 1984 and 1991 (Operations Moses and Solomon), Titi’s journey from Ethiopia was quite different.  Orphaned at the age of twelve, she came alone to Israel to live with her maternal grandparents.  She came without the emotional, social, cultural, and linguistic skills necessary for an easy absorption.   Instead of wallowing in self-pity for the harsh lot given to her by life she rose above it, and through sheer grit and determination arrived at the point where she is today.  As Titi so expressively stated during an interview with the BBC:

I was raised by my grandmother. Nothing was handed to me on a plate.  I had to work very hard and long to achieve things in my life.  I felt a responsibility to prove myself in everything I did and to improve myself as well.

It is important to acknowledge that with all of Israel’s incredible successes in many fields since its creation, there are issues, including immigrant absorption, that Israel is grappling with as it continues to stride in the 21st century.  Absorption difficulties have been especially felt by Israel’s Ethiopian immigrants.  After the dramatic rescue from certain death by Israel, which was a  fine example of Zionism in action, many Ethiopian Jews still feel marginalised in society.  Ms. Aynaw has many role models in her life including Martin Luther King Junior.  She stated in a recent interview that:

Martin Luther King fought for justice and equality, and that’s one of the reasons I’m here. I want to show that my community has many beautiful qualities that aren’t always represented in the media.  Israel is a multicultural state. We’re diverse and we come from different countries, so we need to show that outwardly.

President Obama, who specifically asked to meet her when he was in Israel recently, is another one of Titi’s role models.  Imagine if you told a twelve year old orphan in a new country that she would overcome many of her absorption difficulties, serve as an officer in the IDF and be invited to meet with the President of the USA at a State gala, all within less than a decade after her arrival?  Only in Israel!

About the Author
Dr. Tuvia Book was born in London and raised in both the UK and South Africa. After making Aliya at the age of 17 and studying in Yeshiva he volunteered for the IDF, where he served in an elite combat unit. Upon his discharge he completed his BA at Bar-Ilan University, as well as certification in graphic design. He then served as the Information Officer at the Israeli Consulate of Philadelphia, while earning a graduate degree in Jewish Studies. Upon his return to Israel, Dr. Book graduated from a course of study with the Israeli Ministry of Tourism, and is a licensed tour guide. Tuvia has been working in the field of Jewish Education, both formal and informal, for many years. He has guided and taught Jewish students and educators from around the English-speaking world for some of Israel’s premier educational institutions and programs. Tuvia has been guiding groups for Birthright Israel since its inception and, in addition, has lectured throughout North America, Australia, Europe and South Africa. Tuvia served as a Shaliach (emissary) for the Jewish Agency for Israel as the Director of Israel and Zionist Education at the Board of Jewish Education of Greater New York (Jewish Education Project). He was a lecturer/educational guide at the Alexander Muss Institute for Israel Education (AMIIE) in Israel for a decade. Tuvia has lectured at both Bar Ilan University and Hebrew University. He was a Senior Editor and Teaching Fellow at the Tikvah Fund. He is a research associate at the Hudson Institute. Tuvia is the author and illustrator the internationally acclaimed Israel education curriculum; "For the Sake of Zion; A Curriculum of Israel Studies" (Fifth edition, Koren 2017), and "Moral Dilemmas of the Modern Israeli Soldier" (Rama, 2011) and has a doctorate in Israel Education. His latest book, "Jewish Journeys, The Second Temple Period to the Bar Kokhba Revolt – 536 BCE-136 CE," was published by Koren this year. To order: