Miss Israel beauty pageant canceled after more than 70 years

The Miss Israel beauty contest will not be held this year, ending a run of annual competitions that started in 1950. As a result, Israel will not be sending a contestant to the international Miss Universe contest to be held January in the US.

The move by organizers of the Israel contest, which was quietly announced last week, drew a range of responses from past winners, from lamenting the development to welcoming the event’s demise. In recent years the pageant has faced criticism for judging women on their physical appearance.

Sella Sharlin, Miss Israel 2019, told Radio 103FM on Friday, “I think that the competition, for those who aren’t familiar with it in depth, today gives a lot of tools to anyone who is chosen.”

She spoke about the work that winning the contest had led to, including “lectures that I later got to give to youth. I founded a group of associations that deal with financial education for youth.

“At the end of the day, this competition gives a platform and a place for women to lead, to initiate, and not necessarily to talk about beauty,” Sharlin said.

She suggested changes could have been made, such as dropping the swimwear section of the contest and placing more emphasis on “standing in front of an audience, speaking, leading things, giving space to female power. Not for beauty or the looks of women.”

Screen capture from video of Sella Sharlin, Miss Israel 2019. (YouTube. Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Sharlin, who was on the panel of judges in the last contest, said that there have been changes made to reflect current attitudes, but admitted they have not been enough and are not demonstrated in the contest itself.

Sivan Klein, the 2003 contest winner who went on to become a Channel 12 television host, backed the cancellation.

In a video post to Channel 12’s website, she welcome the end of the contest, saying that while it may have had its merits, it is outdated.

“Queen Elizabeth has died, and now the beauty queen contest is buried,” she said. “Definitely not a time to be a queen, but maybe it’s a slightly better time to be a woman.”

Noting the range of ethnicities of past winners and the achievements that some went on to realize, she said, “There were real queens, regardless of beauty, and the organizers really thought it was important to empower women, but come on… in twenty twenty something, you can also say that this competition is no longer a thing.”

The contest, she said, is “shallow. It asks smart questions of smart women, in a bikini. It places a crown on the head and at the same time, a ceiling.”

Screen capture from video of Sivan Klein, television host and the 2003 Miss Israel contest winner, November 2022. (Channel 12. Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Linor Abargil, who was crowned in 1998 and has since become a lawyer and actress while also embracing Orthodox Judaism, which places an emphasis on modest appearance for women, said in an Instagram post last week that it was time to end the contest.

“A woman is not a body or a face and no one in the world has the right to criticize us, or to assess our weight to see if it matches what is going on in the market!” she wrote. “People change, the world changes, it is permissible to say we were wrong and move on to a world where women will continue to run the world but only because of who they are, and not because of anything else.”

The Miss Israel administration said in a statement Tuesday, “We will not participate in the Miss Universe contest this year.”

Winners of the Israeli contest were sent to represent the country at the Miss Universe competition.

Israel hosted last year’s Miss Universe contest in the southern resort city of Eilat.

Israeli politics told straight

I joined The Times of Israel after many years covering US and Israeli politics for Israeli news outlets.

I believe responsible coverage of Israeli politicians means presenting a 360 degree view of their words and deeds – not only conveying what occurs, but also what that means in the broader context of Israeli society and the region.

That’s hard to do because you can rarely take politicians at face value – you must go the extra mile to present full context and try to overcome your own biases.

I’m proud of our work that tells the story of Israeli politics straight and comprehensively. I believe Israel is stronger and more democratic when professional journalists do that tough job well.

Your support for our work by joining The Times of Israel Community helps ensure we can continue to do so.

Thank you,
Tal Schneider, Political Correspondent

Join Our Community

Join Our Community

Already a member? Sign in to stop seeing this

You’re a dedicated reader

That’s why we started the Times of Israel ten years ago – to provide discerning readers like you with must-read coverage of Israel and the Jewish world.

So now we have a request. Unlike other news outlets, we haven’t put up a paywall. But as the journalism we do is costly, we invite readers for whom The Times of Israel has become important to help support our work by joining The Times of Israel Community.

For as little as $6 a month you can help support our quality journalism while enjoying The Times of Israel AD-FREEas well as accessing exclusive content available only to Times of Israel Community members.

Thank you,
David Horovitz, Founding Editor of The Times of Israel

Join Our Community

Join Our Community

Already a member? Sign in to stop seeing this