Tomorrow (Sunday) morning at 9am I will visit Israel’s Channel 2 studios to chat on the morning show along with our November cover model and Playboy Playmate: Emily Malka Meckonen. Emily is the world’s first Israeli-Ethiopian Playboy Playmate, and in photographing with us, she is making a little bit of history.
In the early 1980s, it came to the attention of the Israel and the global Jewish communities that the Ethiopian Jewish community was under threat. Rather than stand idly by and allow a genocide to occur, the Israel Defense Forces, in cooperation with America’s CIA and local forces, conducted “Operation Moses.” Between November 1, 1984 and January 5, 1985 some 12,000 Ethiopian Jews trekked on foot to Sudan where an Israeli airlift was waiting for them. Tragically, around 4,000 died along the way to the airlift from disease, hunger and attacks, but in the end Operation Moses airlifted some 8,000 Ethiopian Jews directly to Israel. (Subsequent operations airlifted thousands more Ethiopian Jews to Israel, and out of harm’s way.) Among the Ethiopian Jews airlifted to Israel in Operation Moses were Emily’s parents. Now, almost three decades later, Israel has an entire generation of Ethiopian Jews who were born in Israel, including Emily.
There was a time when Israel and the world Jewish communities thought of Ethiopian Jews as refugees, people who were poor, unfamiliar with the modern world, and in need of help. Yet, much like Israel itself, our Ethiopian community has been evolving. On the one hand, Ethiopians sometimes encounter incidents of racism in Israel, even today. On the other hand, Israel is the only country I know of that could (or WOULD) successfully airlift and integrate an entire community. In just the past year we’ve seen an Ethiopian-Israeli beauty queen (Yityish “Titi” Aynaw), and an Ethiopian-Israeli winner of the “Big Brother” reality show (Tahunia Rubel). Now we have our Emily: an Ethiopian-Israeli Playboy Playmate. According to Emily, she feels comfortable, supported and proud of her Playboy appearance, and she believes that our November magazine will raise awareness in Israel of Ethiopian beauty. As a Publisher and recent Oleh (immigrant to Israel), I hope our November issue will also raise awareness around the world of the diversity, modernity and beauty of Israel itself.
Playboy has long stood for social progress. In 1965 Playboy featured the first of many African American Playmates (Jennifer Jackson), at a time when featuring African Americans on a magazine cover was seen as risky and controversial. Playboy’s writers over the years have included Martin Luther King, Alex Haley (author of Roots) and Playboy’s interviews have included Malcolm X, all during an era in American history when such features were considered to be a risk. Israel too, has long stood for social progress: our very existence defied expectations, our survival has been nothing short of miraculous, and our growth into a modern culture that incorporates both freedom and tradition, both religion and fashion is the very hallmark of who we are as a people. We are diversity, we are freedom, we are one of the world’s youngest countries and one of the world’s oldest peoples, we are a million little contradictions and a few big ones, but most of all: even with all of our imperfections and contradictions, we are a work in progress. I am proud that today Playboy Israel is a part of that progress: both within Israeli society, and also as a megaphone to the outside world.
This month, in addition to our beautiful photo production of Emily, we also feature an exclusive and groundbreaking interview with Uzi Elam, former CEO of Israel’s atomic program, who discusses everything from Vanunu to Iran to the first shofar blowing at the Wailing Wall after it’s capture by Israel in 1967. The November issue of Playboy Israel will hit newsstands and bookstores soon.
For more information, please visit us at playboy.co.il and for a non-nude and totally “safe-for-office” sneak peak behind the scenes at Emily’s Playboy photo-shoot take a look at http://playboy.co.il/nov-2013-emily-meckonen/. (On our site we also have a beautiful behind the scenes video courtesy of FashionTV but the FTV video is not safe-for-office.)