(JNS.org) Transgender women from each of the three Abrahamic faiths competed in the final round of Israel’s first-ever transgender beauty pageant on Friday. The final three contestants who vied for the Miss Trans Israel 2016 crown were a Jewish confectioner from an Orthodox family in Jerusalem, a Muslim belly dancer from Tel Aviv, and a Christian ballerina from Nazareth.
Ta’alin Abu Hanna, the Christian ballerina, won the pageant and will represent Israel at the Miss Trans Star International pageant in Barcelona in September.
The pageant initially had 12 contestants representing different faiths and sectors in Israel. The participants described the event as a significant achievement due to its diverse group of competitors.
"My goal is not to win, but to send a message to the Arab communities in Israel or abroad to accept the other," Carolin Khoury, a Muslim pageant participant who has had to overcome violent opposition to her gender transition from her family, told Reuters.
"The Israeli police helped me to move out of my home, and despite all of the bad situations, I came through, I kept moving toward my dream, and here I am now," she said. "This competition will open the door for some people."
Israel—and particularly the city of Tel Aviv—is known as an oasis in a rough Middle East region when it comes to LGBT rights. But some religiously conservative sectors within Israel's Jewish population, as well as within its minority Muslim and Christian populations, have been the source of tensions with the LGBT community. Haredi man Yishai Schlissel stabbed six people at Jerusalem's gay pride parade in 2015, a repeat of a similar attack he was responsible for in 2005. Sixteen-year-old Shira Banki died of her wounds from Schlissel's 2015 attack.
"Israeli people like transgenders, but they don't have enough information about transgenders," said pageant judge Efrat Tilma at Tel Aviv's Habima National Theatre, where the pageant is being held.
"Among us there are judges, there are doctors, there are lawyers, there are people who are working in hi-tech positions and, as well, people who would like to go to the Israeli parliament and to represent us in our parliament,” Tilma said.