Members of the Shalva Band said Wednesday that they were living out their dream by appearing at the Eurovision Song Contest this year.
The musical group – made up mostly of young adults with various disabilities – held a press conference at the Expo Tel Aviv on Wednesday evening, shortly after the first on-stage rehearsal for their appearance at the second semifinal. The group will go on stage as the interval act, while the votes are being cast and counted.
“We didn’t get here the way we wanted; we thought something else would happen,” said co-lead singer Dina Samteh. “But even so, they chose us to represent the State of Israel, and who we are, and to share our message – and for us it’s a great honor.”
Samteh was referring to the group’s journey on Hakochav Haba (Rising Star), the show which selects Israel’s Eurovision representative. The band made it to the finals of the show, but ultimately dropped out when they realized they would have to participate in rehearsals on Shabbat in order to perform at the Eurovision.
Shai Ben-Shushan, director of the band, said that the group stands by its decision to take part in the show.
“When we first started playing together people wouldn’t listen to us, they would just leave the room,” he said. “We worked hard and we became better and better, and we believed in ourselves. After a lot of hard work, we got to Hakochav Haba – and in the beginning we didn’t believe that we were good enough to make it to the end.”
Ben-Shushan said the response they have received from appearing on the show has been incredible.
“We’ve made a huge change in Israeli society,” he said. “Today, when we walk in the street, the Israeli people want to embrace us – not because we’re a gimmick, but because we’re good at what we do.”
Asked about the band’s next steps and dreams, Samteh said that, “we’re already in the middle of our dream... we just want to keep creating and keep writing songs, and performing in Israel and overseas.”
During the second semifinal on Thursday night, the band will be performing a rendition of “A Million Dreams” from the soundtrack of The Greatest Showman.
“They can say, they can say it all sounds crazy/ They can say, they can say I’ve lost my mind,” the lyrics go. “I don’t care, I don’t care, so call me crazy.”
Sara Samuels, the band’s guitarist and daughter of the Shalva Center’s founders, said the lyrics sum up the band’s message well.
“People said we were crazy to do this,” she said, “but we did it.”