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Israel Society & Culture: The Eurovision Song Contest

Dana Internationa


The Eurovision Song Contest is the longest-running international television contest of all time, currently in its 63rd year. It was started in the wake of World War II, as the European Broadcasting Union sought to bring the communities of Europe together through light-hearted wholesome entertainment. The competitors, typically member countries of the European Broadcasting Union, submit one original song to be performed on live television during the competition.

Each country selects a jury of five entertainment professionals to represent them and vote on their behalf, and viewers can also televote by sending text messages from their cellular phones. The winning country is chosen by tallying up the total points from the jury votes and the televotes. The first year that televotes were allowed was 1998. More than 100 million viewers watch the competition annually, making it one of the most watched non-sporting events in the world.

Although most competitors are from the continent of Europe, many other nations have competed over the years, including Australia, Cyprus, Armenia, Turkey, Russia, Azerbaijan, and Israel. Currently, the competition features approximately 40 countries, with 52 countries having participated at least once.

Notable winners of the contest include ABBA, who won the competition in 1974 representing Sweden, and Celine Dion, who won in 1988 while representing Switzerland.

Israel at Eurovision

Israel has hosted the contest in Jerusalem twice: in 1979, the first time it was held outside Europe, and in 1999. In 2019, because of political objections to holding it in Jerusalem, it was held in Tel Aviv. The Israel Broadcasting Authority is a member organization of the European Broadcasting Union and Israel has participated in the contest 41 times, beginning in 1973. That first entry finished fourth out of seventeen contestants.

Israel has won the contest four times: in 1978 (“A-Ba-ni-bi,” performed by Izhar Cohen and Alphabeta), March 31, 1979 (“Hallelujah,” performed by Gali Atari and Milk and Honey), May 9, 1988, (“Diva” by Dana International), and 2018 (“Toy” by Netta Barzilai). The competition in 1980 fell on Yom HaZikaron, and Israel declined to participate. This was the only time in the contest’s history that the winner sat out the following year. Israel holds the record for the most entries in the contest without ever coming in last place.

Because Israel won the Eurovision Song Contest in 2018, it hosted the competition in 2019 in what was a hugely successful event viewed by millions throughout Europe and highlighted by a performance by Madonna.

Sources: Eurovision Song Contest, Wikipedia.
Israel in the Eurovision Song Contest, Wikipedia.

Photos: Dana International - Daniel Kruczyński, CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
Netta - Zahari Baharov, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons.