Miss Universe contestants rock Jerusalem

The way to the pageant this year has been fraught with challenges due to the pandemic.

 Miss Universe contestants are seen in Jerusalem, on November 30, 2021. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Miss Universe contestants are seen in Jerusalem, on November 30, 2021.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Girl power was in the air at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem on Tuesday night, as about 40 of the Miss Universe pageant contestants gathered for tea, and met with local female politicians and heads of nonprofits as well as with Mayor Moshe Lion.

Lion addressed the group and lit a candle on a hanukkiah to celebrate the third night of Hanukkah.

The meeting, at which women who head organizations that fight poverty and violence against women, and which provide training and jobs to people with special needs, was the initiative of Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, deputy mayor of the city. Among these were several women who run the Boydem, a second-hand clothing store that provides training and rehabilitation for people with mental health issues.

Women from all Jerusalem religions and cultures were present. Hassan-Nahoum said she wanted the contestants to meet “partners and ambassadors who promote civil society.”

She said that she recognized that the Miss Universe pageant – which will take place next week in Eilat – “is an incredible platform for you to be able to change your own countries,” noting that people are unwilling to believe that “women can be smart and beautiful.”

 Miss Universe contestants are seen in Jerusalem, on November 30, 2021. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST) Miss Universe contestants are seen in Jerusalem, on November 30, 2021. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Mayor Lion, who attended with his wife, said, “I know you have had a chance to see just a little bit of this beautiful city – and I hope you have already fallen in love with her. The Talmud teaches us that God gave 10 measures of beauty to the world, and Jerusalem got nine of them. Well today, we have been blessed with the final one.

“We have strong Jerusalem women with us who work for social causes and the community. Each one of them is an ambassador for us, and I hope all of you will be our ambassadors for women and everyone all over the world. We are celebrating Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, which symbolizes – like the city of Jerusalem – the strength of hope. I hope you all take some of this hope with you – some of this light in the darkness – when you leave.”

Lion presented Paula Shugart, president of the Miss Universe organization, with an ancient map of Jerusalem and thanked her for her hard work.

The path toward the pageant this year has been fraught with challenges due to the pandemic. On Tuesday morning, the French contestant reportedly tested positive for corona and went into isolation. Many other contestants are still in isolation following their arrival.

On the political side, the contestant from South Africa faced pressure from her own government not to participate, which she resisted. A woman claiming to be the Greek contestant who said she was withdrawing from the pageant in support of BDS was denounced as a fraud by the Greek government.

“I can’t wait to explore Israel, and I am filled with pride to represent a nation of 1.3 billion here,” said Harnaaz Sandhu, Miss India.

The contestants, who visited the Tower of David Museum before the visit to the King David and were heading to The Jerusalem Botanical Gardens afterward, seemed to be full of energy despite the hectic pace. Most participants wore sneakers with chic pantsuits and cocktail attire.