Ethiopian-Israelis bring new reality to entertainment scene

Five women snag headlines and give the Ethiopian immigrant community the voice it seeks.

Ruti Asrasi is playing Lady Macbeth in the Cameri Theater's production of the Shakespeare play.

Ruti Asrasi is playing Lady Macbeth in the Cameri Theater's production of the Shakespeare play.

Yityish “Titi” Aynaw. Rudy Beinsin. Ester Rada. Tahunia Rubel. Ruti Asrasi.

Remember those five names because you’re going to hear a lot more from them this coming year.

Just as the year 5773 in the Hebrew calendar came to a close, Rubel became the fifth Ethiopian-born Israeli woman to snag major headlines over the previous 12 months. The 25-year-old model won Israel’s Big Brother contest in its fifth season.

Rubel, who was born in Ethiopia and grew up in Beit Shemesh, prevailed over some racist comments by one of the show’s early contestants and pocketed just over $250,000 in prize money.

Aynaw, 21, another model, created the biggest media buzz when she was crowned as Miss Israel – the first to achieve the beauty title from her 130,000-strong Ethiopian immigrant community.

Titi, as she is known in Israel, even got to meet US President Barack Obama when he came for a visit.

“It’s important to have a first [beauty] queen from the Ethiopian community. Israel has many ethnic groups and many colors, and it’s important to show it to the world,” she told the judges during the competition.

“I see it as a mission to represent Israel’s different colors. There are not enough dark-skinned models in Israel. I hope to become a successful model thanks to the contest and create a change in the perception of dark-skinned models. I would be happy to be the first Ethiopian television host, an Israeli Tyra Banks.”

Asrasi, an Israeli-born actress, currently has one of the most coveted roles in theater – she’s playing Lady Macbeth in the Cameri Theater’s production of the Shakespeare play. Audiences have seen her in numerous roles in theater, film and television already. Now, critics are hailing the performance by the 30-year-old Beit Zvi School of the Performing Arts graduate, and we’re likely to see a lot more of her this coming year.

The two other Ethiopian-born celebrities to hit recent headlines may be more familiar to international audiences. Singers Beinsin and Rada have upcoming dates for North America.

Beinsin — a finalist on the Israeli version of the reality television show The Voice – is set to speak at the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America in November.

In 1990, she was born in Ethiopia and a year later moved to Israel during Operation Solomon. Her family was sent to an absorption center in Beersheva and later relocated to Netanya.

Beinsin is now performing around Israel and developing her own songs.

But it is Rada, another Netanya-raised export, who has made the biggest splash for the Ethiopian community this past year.

The soul singer, who has been likened to Aretha Franklin and Erykah Badu, has a fast-growing international fan base. Rada, who kicked off her career in acting before taking the mic, has already performed in clubs and on stages across North America, Australia and in Europe, and great things are expected from her in 5774.

Feathers in her cap include opening for Alicia Keys’ Israeli concert and performing at the Glastonbury Festival. Her video of “Life Happens” is currently being aired on MTV France, East Europe and Israel, as well as on VH1 UK.

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About Viva Sarah Press

Viva Sarah Press is an associate editor and writer at ISRAEL21c. She has extensive experience in reporting/editing in the print, online and broadcast fields. She has jumped out of a plane, ducked rockets and been attacked by a baboon all in the name of a good story. Her work has been published by international media outlets including Israel Television, CNN, Reuters, The Jerusalem Post and Time Out.