Miss Iraq visits Miss Israel in Jerusalem after fury over joint selfie

Miss Iraq visits Miss Israel in Jerusalem after selfie of them together last year sparked death threats and forced her to flee to the US

  • Iraqi Sarah Idan caused outrage when she posed with Israeli Adar Gandelsman
  • Miss Idan moved her family out of Iraq to the US after getting death threats
  • But on Monday she was reunited with Miss Gandelsman on a trip to Jerusalem
  • The pair took another picture captioned ‘sister’s reunion’ and ate food together 

Two beauty queens from Iraq and Israel reunited in Jerusalem this week, months after a selfie of the pair at the Miss Universe competition caused a vicious backlash.

Iraqi Sarah Idan dined with Adar Gandelsman in the holy city on Monday before posting a picture online with the caption: ‘Sister’s reunion.’

Miss Idan was forced to flee Iraq and move her family to America last year after she posed for a different picture with Adar Gandelsman, captioned: ‘Peace and love.’

Iraqi Sarah Idan (right) posted this picture with Israeli Adar Gandelsman online with the caption ‘sisters reunion’ after she visited Jerusalem this week

The pair also uploaded a video of themselves in the holy city. Miss Idan tells her followers shalom – a Hebrew greeting which also means ‘peace’ – while Miss Gandelsman says salam – an Arabic word with the same meaning

Miss Idan (right) fled Iraq with her family last year after taking a selfie with Miss Gandelsman during the Miss Universe competition which she captioned ‘peace and love’

At the time she reported getting death threats over the image and said the Miss Iraq organisers pressured her to take it, which she refused to do.

Iraq, which is home to around 15,000 Palestinians, refuses to recognise the existence of Israel and the two countries are technically at war. 

Miss Idan toured Jerusalem with Miss Gandelsma before sitting down in an Iraqi-Jewish restaurant in the Mahane Yehuda market for some food, the BBC reported.


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She also posted a video in which she tells her followers ‘shalom’ – a Hebrew greeting which also means ‘peace’ – and Miss Gandelsman says ‘salam’ – an Arabic word with the same meaning.

Speaking to Israel’s Channel 2 News, Miss Idan said: ‘I don’t think Iraq and Israel are enemies, I think maybe the governments are enemies with each other.

‘There’s a lot of Iraqi people that don’t have a problem with Israelis.’

After the original image was posted, Miss Idan said the Miss Iraq organisers threaten to take her crown – by order of the government – and her and her family were subjected to death threats.

Miss Idan went for a tour of Jerusalem on Monday before dining at an Iraqi-Jewish restaurant in the city, saying: ‘I do not believe Iraq and Israel are enemies’

Miss Idan was ordered to remove the image of herself and Miss Gandelsman by the Miss Iraq organisers or face being stripped of her crown, she said at that time

‘When I posted the picture I didn’t think for a second there would be blowback, Ms Idan, originally from Baghdad and now living in the US, told CNN.

‘I woke up to calls from my family and the Miss Iraq Organization going insane. The death threats I got online were so scary,’

‘The director of the Miss Iraq Organization called me and said they’re getting heat from the ministry. He said I have to take the picture down or they will strip me of my title.’

Ms Idan had posed in a bikini as part of the competition, which also caused outrage online.

After putting up an apologetic post the following day, Ms Idan stayed mum to allow her family to flee their home country, and the Miss Iraq Organization removed all photos of her in a bikini from the pageant’s pages.

Speaking to Israeli TV, Ms Gandelsman said they had decided to post the picture to show that ‘it’s possible to live together’.

Ms Idan, who has served with both the US and Iraqi armies, added that they wanted to see ‘between the two religions (Judaism and Islam)’

Miss Idan (centre) also said her family received death threats over the image, after which she decided to move to America

Speaking at the time, Miss Idan said she had not anticipated so much backlash. Iraq refuses to recognise Israel and the two are technically still at war

‘This picture doesn’t mean I support the Israeli government or its polices towards Arab countries. I apologise to everyone who saw it as an insult to the Palestinian cause – this was not its purpose.’

More than 3,600 ‘likes’ greeted their picture, but it also triggered an avalanche of comments, some positive and others negative in a country that does not recognise Israel, with which it is still technically at war.

One online response, from Isra al-Jabri, read: ‘Your peace with Israel, which has burned the Arab world for its own interests, does not honour us…’

‘I respect pacifist Jews who oppose the state of Israel, but we don’t want their peace built on the ruins of our country,’ Jabri added.

However, Samah al-Meshhadani believed that Miss Iraq had ‘made good use of this story’.

‘Maybe she will succeed in improving our relations with Israel so we become friends, who knows?’

Idan, a Muslim, was born and raised in Baghdad. Following the US-led invasion in 2003, she worked with the American military from 2008.

She later moved to the United States and got a degree in Los Angeles.

Gandelsman, 19, also posted a picture with Idan on her own Instagram account.

‘This is Miss Iraq and she’s amazing,’ the Israeli wrote.

In 2014, her country’s Miss Universe contestant provoked uproar by posing with her counterpart from Lebanon, another Arab country with which the Jewish state is still technically at war.

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