TEL AVIV WILL host the Eurovision Song Contest for the first time next year, beating out bids by Jerusalem and Eilat, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) said today.
Israel earned the right to host next year’s Eurovision in May when Israeli singer Netta Barzilai won the 2018 contest in Lisbon with a song inspired by the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment.
The host country for next year’s contest has proven to be controversial here, with figures from politicians to former song contest winners and presenters adding to calls for Ireland to stay away from the Israel-hosted show next year.
EBU said the decision to choose Tel Aviv was taken by the contest board, which had asked Israeli public broadcaster KAN to present at least two potential candidate cities for the annual competition.
“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.
“We are excited to bring the Contest to a brand new city and are looking forward to working together with KAN to make 2019′s Eurovision Song Contest the most spectacular one yet.”
Barzilai’s win was Israel’s fourth victory.
At the moment of her triumph the singer declared on stage: “Next time in Jerusalem.”
The country previously hosted the contest in Jerusalem in 1979 and 1999, but this time, EBU said Tel Aviv won out after presenting “a very creative and compelling bid”.
EBU said the competition would be held at Expo Tel Aviv, with the semi-finals set to be held on 14 and 16 May and the grand finale on 18 May.
A financial dispute between KAN and the Israeli government had threatened to derail the plans to hold next year’s event in Israel at all, but that issue was resolved last month.
Another possible obstacle to the show could meanwhile come in the form of pressure on participants from the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel over its occupation of Palestinian territory.
There have also been concerns that ultra-Orthodox Jews may protest against violations of the Jewish Sabbath, preventing the event taking place on Saturday.
In terms of the Irish campaign to withdraw from the 2019 contest, almost 8,000 people have now signed an online petition backing the move over Israeli actions against Palestinians.
Figures like Christy Moore, former song contest winner Charlie McGettigan and Senator David Norris staged a high-profile demonstration earlier this summer throwing their support behind the boycott – citing continued human rights abuses and breaches of international law.
The final say on Irish participation rests with RTÉ – and so far there’s been no indication of any surprise announcements from the national broadcaster regarding the 2019 contest. Minister for Foreign Affairs, and Tánaiste, Simon Coveney has also said the government wouldn’t back a boycott.
With reporting from Daragh Brophy