(Corrects dateline and paragraph 2 to show event was in Jerusalem, not Haifa)
JERUSALEM (Reuters) -An 86-year-old great-grandmother was crowned “Miss Holocaust Survivor” on Tuesday in an annual Israeli beauty pageant designed to honour women who endured the horrors of the Nazi genocide.
Ten contestants – ranging in age from 79 to 90 – trod the catwalk at a museum in Jerusalem, their hair styled and make-up applied and dressed to the nines with sashes adorning their gowns.
Organisers of the contest, which was cancelled last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, say it bestows glamour and respect on a dwindling number of Jewish women whose youth was stolen during World War Two but who went on to build new lives in Israel.
“After what I went through in the Holocaust, I never dreamed that I could get to where I am, with a big family: two kids, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren,” said contestant Kuka Palmon, who survived a pogrom in her native Romania.
“And yet here I am, at this great age, 87. It’s a godly thing, it is indescribable.”
Tuesday’s winner, Salina Steinfeld, was also born in Romania, where she survived Nazi attacks before moving to Israel in 1948, organisers said. Other contestants included a woman born in Yugoslavia who survived the Rab concentration camp in modern-day Croatia.
Some commentators and survivors worry the event cheapens the memory of the 6 million Jews killed by the Nazis.
Dana Papo, whose grandmother Rivka competed on Tuesday, disputed that point of view, arguing that the contestants “deserve that everyone see how much beauty there is in these women who went through such horror.
“We will show them how much we love and appreciate them. Thanks to them, we have a future and we have a country.”
(Reporting by Dedi Hayun; Writing by Rami Ayyub; Editing by Howard Goller)