A sense of uneasy quiet settled on Israel on Monday morning, after two days of intense rocket fire that terrorized the South and jarred the nation. Residents of southern communities slowly returned to school and work, and Israelis loosened their grip on breaking news alerts.
But 80 km. north of the Gaza border, it was like nothing had ever happened.
At the site of the upcoming Eurovision in the Expo Tel Aviv conference center, rehearsals, preparation and media coverage were full speed ahead on Monday. Nine more countries took to the stage for the first time, followed by press conferences with the assembly of international media. And at Ben-Gurion Airport, the steady stream of arriving artists continued unabated.
“Here you don’t even know” about the flareup in violence, said Matt Friedrichs of the popular Eurovision blog ESCUnited. “You live in a bubble.”
Friedrichs, speaking to The Jerusalem Post at the Eurovision press center on Monday, said at least 90% of the conversations going on there are about the upcoming competition, and not the rocket attacks. “Occasionally it comes up, sometimes in the press conferences,” he said, “but just briefly.”
Friedrichs, who is attending his eighth Eurovision, said his time in Tel Aviv has been “really good so far... it’s been fairly smooth for the most part.” News about rockets and violence, he said, came to him from comments on his videos and from phone calls from family.
Eurovision rehearsals continued without interruption on Saturday and Sunday as rockets were launched by Hamas and the IDF struck Gaza. And on Monday morning, violence was barely an afterthought amidst the hustle and bustle of preparations for arguably the largest international event in Israel’s history.
And the dozens of international media and Eurovision superfans assembled in the press center at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds had one focus: the singing.