from left to right: Lisbon Deputy Mayor Duarte Cordeiro, Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai and hosts Assi Azar and Lucy Ayoub.
(photo credit: AMY SPIRO)
The Eurovision season in Israel officially kicked off on Monday evening with a ceremony at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art.
The ceremony, the first Eurovision event to take place in Israel this year, included the official “insignia handover” from Lisbon – which hosted the show last year – to Tel Aviv. Deputy Lisbon Mayor Duarte Cordeiro was there to hand the heavy, adorned keychain to Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai.
“I wish the greatest success to the Eurovision Song Contest 2019 and to this magnificent city,” Cordeiro said. “I’m sure it will be a huge party.”
Huldai – in addition to briefly showing off his musical skills on the recorder – promised that the city is working overtime to ensure a successful show.
“Hundreds of people have already begun working... and they all have one goal,” said Huldai. “To make sure that the Eurovision this year will be the best show on earth in the coolest city in the world.”
The mayor referenced the Eurovision slogan, Dare to Dream, saying: “This is a fantastic slogan for the city of Tel Aviv. Tel Aviv is the start-up city in the start-up nation. The dreamers of Tel Aviv-Jaffa are waiting to host you in May.”
Huldai said his other dream is for Israel to win the contest once again this year.
“We hope we’re going to win again this year,” he said. “And, as the Jewish saying goes: next year in Jerusalem.”
Eurovision executive supervisor Jon Ola Sand was also on hand to oversee the handover.
“I’m so happy to be here on this stage tonight,” he said. “I’m so happy to be back in Israel... all of us are really excited that the contest is coming back here.” Sand said that he attended the 1999 Eurovision contest in Jerusalem, “and what I brought from that edition was all the warm feelings I got from all the people here.”
The ceremonial exchange was followed by the draw to determine the semi-final running order for the dozens of countries taking part in this year’s competition.
Since Israel is the host country, it – and the “Big Five”: Italy, Spain, Germany, France and the UK – will automatically advance to the final round. At the draw on Monday, Israel was selected to be able to vote in the first semi-final, which will be held on May 14.
The first semifinal will include Slovenia, Estonia, Belarus, Portugal, Czech Republic, San Marino, Montenegro, Iceland, Cyprus, Georgia, Australia, Belgium, Serbia, Finland, Ukraine, Poland, Hungary and Greece.
The second semifinal, slated for May 16, will include Switzerland, Albania, Sweden, Ireland, Austria, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Macedonia, Norway, Russia, Latvia, Romania, Netherlands, Croatia, Denmark, Armenia, Lithuania and Malta.
The running order for the countries in each semi-final will be selected at a later date.