Sarah Idan’s family was told they are no longer welcome in Iraq after she posted a selfie with her Israeli counterpart at the Miss Universe pageant.

Sarah Idan (right) poses for a selfie with Miss Israel Adar Gandelsman

Sarah Idan (right) poses for a selfie with Miss Israel Adar Gandelsman Photo credit: Instagram

The winner of the 2017 Miss Iraq beauty pageant was greeted with cheers and hugs as she arrived in Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda market this week.

To understand why, it is necessary to go back six months. Sarah Idan, 26, who was representing Iraq at the Miss Universe contest, posted a selfie with Miss Israel, Adar Gandelsman, on her Instagram page. This led to her family’s expulsion from the country.

Now, she says, she wants to spread the message that Iraqis and Israelis are not enemies. “I think maybe the governments are enemies with each other,” she said, “but there are a lot of Iraqi people who don’t have a problem with Israel or with the Jewish people. There are a lot of Iraqi people on my side, and I believe they are happy I am here.”

The American Jewish Committee (AJC) recently invited Idan to come to Israel. After much deliberation and hesitance, she finally accepted the offer.

“It actually felt weird — the people look like my people. And the city looks like Damascus, like Syria, and I’ve been there, so everything seems familiar to me,” she said.