Eurovision tickets going free to residents of South

Madonna officially confirms Eurovision appearance as rehearsals kick into high gear.

The Netherlands takes part in a Eurovision rehearsal at the Expo Tel Aviv this week (photo credit: THOMAS HANSES/EBU)
The Netherlands takes part in a Eurovision rehearsal at the Expo Tel Aviv this week
(photo credit: THOMAS HANSES/EBU)
The KAN public broadcaster will give free tickets to the semi-finals and to the rehearsals of the upcoming Eurovision to residents of the South.
KAN announced Thursday that the tickets will be available free of charge to those who live within 40km. of Gaza. The public broadcaster said the move was a "sign of support and appreciation" for the communities who were terrorized over the weekend by constant barrages of rocket fire.
The move is a double win for KAN, which has been struggling to sell tickets to the six rehearsal shows next week as well as to the two live semi-final shows. While tickets for the live grand finale sold out quickly, seats at all the remaining shows are still available.
High prices set by the public broadcaster appeared to drive away both tourists and locals. With just a few days until the first semi-final on Tuesday evening, more than 2,000 tickets to that show were still unsold. Such a state is unprecedented for a Eurovision, experts on the song contest have said. Sales to the rehearsals - two for each of the three live shows - have been even slower.
On Monday, Blue and White MK Zvika Hauser called on KAN to distribute the remaining tickets to the residents of the South, so that "their comfort will bring us a little comfort.”
And after months of speculation - and long after her appearance was considered a given - Madonna finally signed on the dotted line on Thursday to appear at the Eurovision finale on May 18. The European Broadcasting Union - which until now had said that Madonna's participation was not finalized - announced her appearance Thursday in the full line-up of interval acts.
The international superstar will perform two songs during the grand finale, one classic hit and one song from her new album. Israeli media have reported that she will perform "Like a Prayer," her 1989 hit single. And all signs indicate that the second song will be "Future," which she recorded with rapper Quavo, who announced a surprise popup concert in Israel next Thursday.
Madonna's appearance is being funded by Israeli-Canadian billionaire Sylvan Adams, who was also behind bringing the Giro d'Italia to Israel last year.
Meanwhile, while millions of Israelis celebrated Independence Day with barbecues and beach time, inside the Expo Tel Aviv the rehearsals and preparation were full steam ahead.
The whole Eurovision operation took an unusual break on Wednesday to mark Israel's Remembrance Day. But on Thursday, a national holiday in Israel, everything was back to normal with a full slate of rehearsals and press conferences. On Thursday, the 16 contestants performing during the first semi-final took the stage for their second rehearsal in Expo Tel Aviv.
The big five countries - France, Spain, Italy, the UK and Germany - as well as Israel, automatically qualify for the finale on May 18. Those countries will hold their first rehearsals on Friday afternoon.
Official Eurovision festivities kick off Sunday night, with the "orange carpet" opening event at Habima Square in central Tel Aviv. There, all 41 contestants will walk the orange carpet and talk to press from around the world. Then all the delegations will be officially welcomed to the city by Mayor Ron Huldai and officials from KAN.