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Tel Aviv beats out Jerusalem to host 2019 Eurovision Song Contest

News Desk

Agence France-Presse

Geneva | Fri, September 14, 2018 | 09:05 pm
Tel Aviv beats out Jerusalem to host 2019 Eurovision Song Contest

The decision follows Israeli singer Netta Barzilai's victory (pictured) in this year's contest in Lisbon, with a song inspired by the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment, earning her nation the right to hold the 2019 Eurovision. (AFP/Francisco Leong)

The Eurovision Song Contest will make its glitzy debut in Tel Aviv next year, the European Broadcasting Union announced Thursday, after it beat rival Israeli contenders to host the annual music spectacle.     

The decision follows Israeli singer Netta Barzilai's victory in this year's contest in Lisbon, with a song inspired by the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment, earning her nation the right to hold the 2019 Eurovision.

Tel Aviv trounced rival bids from Jerusalem and Eilat after the song contest's board asked Israeli public broadcaster KAN to present at least two potential candidate cities for the annual competition, the EBU said.

"All the bids were exemplary but in the end we decided that Tel Aviv provides the best overall setup for the world's largest live music event," EBU chief Jon Ola Sand said in a statement.

Barzilai's win was Israel's fourth victory and the country previously hosted the contest in Jerusalem in 1979 and 1999. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it was "privileged" to host the contest.

"Tel Aviv is an international city, a vibrant city, and the whole world will see it and Israel," he said.

The show must go on? 

Barzilai, 25, won the 2018 contest with an eye-catching and bizarre performance of her uptempo song "Toy", in which she wore a multicoloured kimono and added clucking sounds and chicken-like dance moves.

Her victory in May led to an outpouring of pride in Israel, with elated crowds breaking into song in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square, as well as at Jerusalem's main open air market.

But Tel Aviv's bid to host next year's Eurovision has hit several hurdles along the way. 

A financial dispute between KAN and the Israeli government had threatened to derail the plans to hold next year's event in Israel, but that issue was resolved last month.

Another possible obstacle to the show could come in the form of pressure on participants from the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel over its occupation of Palestinian territory.

Frank-Dieter Freiling, chairman of the Eurovision Song Contest steering committee, said the organisation wanted Netanyahu's confirmation the show would be a "non-political" event.

Read also: Turkey boycotts Eurovision Song Contest over LGBT performers

"We are expecting to receive guarantees from the prime minister this week in regards to security, access for everyone to attend, freedom of expression and ensuring the non-political nature of the contest," he said.

There have also been concerns that ultra-Orthodox Jews may protest against violations of the Jewish Sabbath, preventing preparations for the Saturday night event.

Israel's efforts to have other countries recognise the disputed city of Jerusalem as its capital, as the United States did in December, was another factor early on in its hosting plans.

In June, Israeli Culture Minister Miri Regev said she would recommend that Israel not host Eurovision if it is not held in Jerusalem, but she has since backed away from that stance.

She welcomed Thursday's announcement on Tel Aviv.

"As I said at the beginning, I thought it was right that Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, would host Eurovision," she said in a statement.

"Once the decision was made to host Eurovision in Tel Aviv, I had no doubt that Israel and Tel Aviv will host Eurovision in the best and most respectable way."

Communications Minister Ayoob Kara also welcomed the decision, while Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai said Eurovision was a "perfect fit for our city".

The competition is set to be held at Expo Tel Aviv, with the semi-finals on May 14 and 16 and the grand finale on May 18.

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