For the fourth time ever, and for the first time in 20 years, Israel took home the top prize at the Eurovision singing competition this year. Netta Barzilai, a 25-year-old from Hod Hasharon, received the most votes for her song "Toy" and won the iconic glass microphone in Lisbon, Portugal, just before midnight on Saturday.
"I'm so happy - thank you so much," said an emotional Barzilai when she took the stage after her win. "Thank you so much for choosing difference, thank you so much for accepting differences between us... I love my country, next time in Jerusalem!"
Later that night, during a press conference, Barzilai said "everyone gave great performances tonight but somebody had to win.
I'm happy they picked me this year." The singer added that she was overjoyed that people voted for her, "choosing something different. Choosing something that’s evolved. Choosing 2018. I am proud and honored to do this. I am proud and honored to bring this magical event to Israel next year.”
Indeed while juries from five countries - Finland, Austria, France, San Marino and the Czech Republic - gave the maximum 12 points, Barzilai's win was thanks to the televoters from around the world. After the judges scoring, Israel was ranked in third position. But it received the most televoting points - 317 - rocketing it to first place and past Cyprus, who had been the favorite to win earlier that day. Cyprus received just 253 points from the televoters, and took home second place - its highest ever finish.
But the Cypriot singer, Eleni Foureira didn't hold it against her, tweeting later that night "congratulations my girl @NettaBarzilai."
Despite the late hour, congratulations and well wishes rolled in from across Israel after Barzilai was crowned the winner.
Both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Culture Minister Miri Regev called Barzilai while she was on live TV to congratulate her, close to 2am Israel time.
"Netta, you brought a lot of honor to the State of Israel," Netanyahu wrote on Facebook on Saturday night. As he walked in to the cabinet meeting on Sunday morning, the prime minister mimed Barzilai's signature chicken dance move.
"We will be proud to host [the Eurovision]," he told the cabinet ministers. "I think we will do everything that allows another big event with a great international viewership in our city, in our country."
President Reuven Rivlin tweeted out "We're proud of you Netta. We're all waiting for you next year in Jerusalem."
Regev told the singer that "she pulled it off, she moved everyone and brought great pride to the State of Israel." The minister later added that Barzilai "brought a great gift to Israel which is celebrating 70 years of independence and to Jerusalem which is celebrating 51 years of its unification."
Hours after Gal Gadot urged her almost 20 million Instagram followers to vote for Israel, she congratulated Barzilai on her win.
"Yay!!!!!! I'm so happy for Netta!!" she wrote, sharing a video of Barzilai's acceptance speech. In the video Gadot can be heard saying "how sweet she is, how cute, what a champion."
Gadot wished Barzilai congratulations on winning, adding: "You represent the real wonder in women. So much [t]ruth, confidence and talent. You stand for diversity and you bring fresh beautiful light to the world."
Israel won its first Eurovision in 1978, with "A-Ba-Ni-Bi," then again in 1979 with "Hallelujah" and in 1999, with "Diva."
Izhar Cohen, who performed "A-Ba-Ni-Bi, told Walla on Sunday that he was overjoyed "that also this generation, all the young people have this moment of happiness. I hope we will keep winning Eurovision and have just these moments of joy."
The otherwise fun and upbeat competition was marred when protesters jumped on to the stage while the UK's SuRie was performing. The two men grabbed the microphone from the singer's hand and yelled "Nazis of the UK media, we demand freedom." She clapped along on stage until she had the microphone returned to her.
SuRie - whose song was co-written by Israeli Gil Lewis - was offered an opportunity to take the stage and perform again, but declined.
Israel gave its 12 points to Austria, followed by 10 to Sweden and 8 to the UK. Kan's Lucy Ayoub announced the jury's decision, the first ever participation for the new public broadcaster.
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