London: An Israeli beauty pageant, participated in by grandmothers, has crowned the first “Miss Holocaust Survivor”, The Sun reported Friday.
Fourteen women, aged 74 to 97, took to the red carpet for the glitzy bash in northern city of Haifa. The contestants described the horrors they suffered at the hands of the Nazis in World War II.
Hava Hershkovitz, 79, who fled her native Romania during the war, was crowned “Miss Holocaust Survivor”. She was awarded the prize by a four-judge panel including three former beauty queens and a psychiatrist, a specialist in helping Holocaust survivors.
“It’s not easy at this age to be in a beauty contest, but we’re all doing it to show that we’re still alive,” said Hershkovitz.
Almost 300 women had registered for the competition but Hershkovitz fended off competition from 14 finalists at the event.
The controversial pageant, however, has been slammed by some critics who branded it “macabre”.
Collete Avital, chairwoman of Israel’s Holocaust survivors’ group, said: “I am in favour of enriching lives, but a one-time pageant masquerading survivors with beautiful clothes is not what is going to make their lives more meaningful.”
Organiser Shimon Sabag, of the Helping Hand organisation, rejected the criticism, saying winners were chosen based on their stories of survival and contribution to the community.
The holocaust was the genocide of approximately six million European Jews during World War II. It was a programme of systematic state-sponsored murder by Nazi Germany, led by Adolf Hitler, throughout Nazi-occupied territory.
Nearly 200,000 Holocaust survivors live in Israel today.