For the third year running, a delegation of Eurovision contestants from around the globe have descended on Israel for a four-day tour of the country.
Performers from 25 of the 43 countries taking part in this year’s competition trickled into Ben Gurion Airport on Sunday, ahead of their sightseeing vacation – where they will be joined by Israel’s Eurovision delegate Netta Barzilai
, of course.
The highlight of the trip will be a live concert staged in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square on Tuesday night, featuring all the participants’ songs for this year’s Eurovision. They will also be joined by Israel’s singers who won the competition in 1978 and 1998 – Izhar Cohen and Dana International.
While the concert will have slightly fewer singers than the Israel Calling show last year, the audience will be much larger. For the past two years, the Eurovision preview show was hosted in an indoor venue, but this year it’s open to the public and is expected to be packed to the gills.
“We’re looking forward to the biggest Eurovision promo event in history,” said Tali Eshkoli, the creator and organizer of Israel Calling. “Thousands of people will fill up Rabin Square and watch the shows of almost three-quarters of the Eurovision 2018 participants.”
The group will also tour Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, plant a tree in the President’s Forest, outside Jerusalem, and watch a flotilla of yachts parade past the Herzliya Marina.
The trip was conceived and planned by Eshkoli and is run in conjunction with the Foreign Ministry, the Tourism Ministry, Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund and the Tel Aviv and Herzliya municipalities. Many of the participants arrived in Israel alongside journalists from their home countries who will be reporting on the trip and the concert.
According to the trip organizers, 25 countries – plus Israel – are taking part in the third annual Israel Calling. Those include the singers from the UK, Spain, and France, who all automatically advance to the Eurovision finals. The contestants from Muslim-majority countries Azerbaijan and Albania are also taking part in Israel Calling this year. Neither sent a participant last year.
Britain’s SuRie posted a selfie on Instagram of herself holding a banana in a bathroom at London’s Luton Airport while en route to Israel: “@IsraelCalling: My banana and I are on our way,” she wrote.
The other countries who are joining are Moldova, San Marino, Latvia, Serbia, Romania, Australia, Iceland, Czech Republic, Lithuania, Slovenia, Belgium, Armenia, Denmark, Austria, Montenegro, Macedonia, Ireland, Switzerland, Georgia and Belarus.
Australia’s Jessica Mauboy posted a photo of herself after arriving at Ben-Gurion Airport on her Instagram feed on Sunday.
“AYEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!” she wrote. “Just touched down in #telaviv and greeted by the beautiful #israelcalling team! I can’t wait to see you all #iheartyou #israel.”
Despite the fierce competition, Israel has high hopes for this year’s contest. Ever since Israel released “Toy,” the song that Barzilai will be performing in the competition this year, it has been sitting pretty at the top of the betting charts
. But there is still a month to go, and a host of geopolitical issues that could play a role.
“We are all hoping that Israel will win the competition again soon,” said Eshkoli, “and we can host it again in Israel.”
The 2018 Eurovision takes place May 8-12 in Lisbon, Portugal.