Israel

WATCH: Israeli-Arab Crowned Miss Trans Israel 2016

A Catholic Israeli-Arab was crowned the first winner of the Miss Trans Israel pageant on Friday.

21-year-old Ta’alin Abu Hanna, a ballet dancer from the northern Israeli city of Nazareth, called her victory “historic” and said that it promoted equality. She told reporters that she is “proud to be an Israeli Arab,” noting, “If I had not been in Israel and had been elsewhere—in Palestine or in any other Arab country—I might have been oppressed or I might have been in prison or murdered.”

“Our country deserves to come out on top,” she added. “Our country allowed me, a Christian Arab from Nazareth, to end the war between my soul and my body. So if it made peace for me, our country is only a country of peace.”

Contestants reflected the breadth of Israeli society, including Muslims, a Russian immigrant, and a finalist who grew up in the Haredi community, JTA reported.

One Arab contestant, Caroline Khouri, said that her male relatives tried to kill her when she declared her intent to become a woman. “My cousins, my father, my brother-in-law all came and beat me and took me by force and cut my hair, tied me to the bed and left me there for three days with no food,” she told NBC News. Khouri was rescued, but remains alienated from her family.

Aylin Ben-Zaken, the formerly Haredi contestant, said that her mother stopped talking to her after her transition, but her family is now more welcoming and she attends Shabbat dinner with them.

“We live in Tel Aviv, in Israel, the only sane country in the region where people can live as gays or transgender and no one is going to throw them off the rooftop or slaughter them,” pageant organizer Yisraela Stephani Lev, known as “The Queen Mother of the Israeli Transgender Community,” told The Jerusalem Post. “This is just the reality here. It’s not some sort of brainwashing or pinkwashing or whatever.”

As winner, Abu Hanna will receive $15,000 worth of plastic surgery from a hospital in Thailand, plus transportation and a hotel while she recuperates. She will be the first Israeli to participate in the Miss Trans Star International pageant, which will be held this August in Spain.

[Photo: wochit News / YouTube ]