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Arab Transgender Beauty Queen Says ‘Israel Means Freedom’

WASHINGTON, D.C. (JTA) — The Israeli Embassy marked LGBT Pride Month with a reception for Jewish and Israeli activists and leaders.

About 100 people attended the event, which featured an address by Talleen Abu Hana, an Arab Christian from Nazareth who won the first Miss Trans Israel beauty pageant in 2016.

The embassy also paid tribute to the 49 victims of last year’s massacre at the gay nightclub Pulse in Orlando, Florida. 

“Just as the noxious fumes of anti-Semitism ultimately poison all of society, so too hatred towards the LGBT community threatens all of us,” Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador to Washington, said in brief remarks.

He also asserted that Israel is the sole country in the Middle East with the “values that progressives are supposed to champion,” referring to Israel’s legal and popular support for gay rights. 

Abu Hana spoke about her experience as a transgender woman in Israel. After winning the beauty pageant, she was runner-up at the Miss Trans Star International Pageant and a contestant on Israel’s “Big Brother.”

“I’m lucky to be an Israeli,” she said. “Being an Israeli means being truly free.”

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