While they are smiling today, they all share a painful past. These sixteen women are Holocaust survivors.
And for one day they are beauty queens as the participants of the third annual Miss Holocaust Survivor beauty contest in Haifa, Israel.
Jurgen Buhler is one of the co-sponsors of the event.
SOUNDBITE: Jurgen Buhler, Executive Director of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem which Donates for the Event, saying (English)
“They were either in ghettos or in concentration camps. So this night is giving them something back which they never could experience when they were young. If you look at the faces of the Holocaust survivors and the joy and the happiness, you see it’s an evening that’s really healing some of their wounds which they bring with them.”
This year’s winner is Romanian-born Rita Berkowitz, now 83, but only seven-years-old when World War Two broke out.
SOUNDBITE: Rita Berkowitz, 83-Year-Old Winner of Holocaust Survivors Beauty Contest, saying (Hebrew)
“Maybe I will deliver a message to the entire people of Israel. That all Jews from all across the world will come (to Israel), all of them. And we shall be stronger.”
Experts estimate some 200,000 Holocaust survivors are currently living in Israel.
While the contest aims to raise awareness for their needs, critics say that the pageant cheapens the memory of the six million Jews killed during the Nazi genocide.