Netta Barzilai performs after winning the Grand Final of Eurovision Song Contest 2018 at the Altice Arena hall in Lisbon, Portugal, on May 12.
(photo credit: PEDRO NUNES/REUTERS)
As I promised, after our amazing Neta won the Eurovision Song Contest, I jumped into the pool at Rabin Square to celebrate with the residents of Tel Aviv. Unfortunately, before my clothes had even had a chance to dry out, a loud argument had erupted about the venue for the 2019 Eurovision. As deputy mayor of Tel Aviv-Jaffa, I have been working since Neta won the contest to make sure that it is held in Tel Aviv-Jaffa. I believe that this is the best decision for the State of Israel.
At the end of the day, everyone understands that if Israel wants a successful Eurovision – an event that will benefit us on the international stage and be professional, exciting, dignified and respectful – then only Tel Aviv, a global city, can provide the goods – and big time!
We recently saw the damage that is ultimately caused when decisions are made on the basis of a “State of Jerusalem” policy, rather than on the basis of rational considerations. This approach damaged Israel and the status of Jerusalem as our capital and handed over a needless victory to Jibril Rajub and his friends.
Why should Eurovision 2019 be held in Tel Aviv? Firstly, and very simply, because Tel Aviv-Jaffa will offer Eurovision tourists a wider range of tourism services. We have more restaurants – and more non-kosher ones (of course most of the tourists will not be looking for kosher food). We have much livelier nightlife than Jerusalem and will be able to offer a more diverse range of parties, shows and cultural events. Tel Aviv has a well-developed “Eurovision culture” all year round, including one of the best-known Eurovision fan clubs in Europe. Tel Aviv will make a friendlier and more logical venue for the Euro Club that accompanies the main event. It hardly needs to be added that Tel Aviv is the most LGBT-friendly city in the Middle East. Eurovision attracts large numbers of LGBT+ visitors from around the world.
A further consideration is that Jerusalem has already hosted the Eurovision twice. The contest rules do not dictate that the contest must take place in the host country’s capital. In fact, 18 of the 62 contests have been held in a non-capital city, particularly in the case of countries that have hosted the contest more than once. These countries – wisely, in my opinion – chose to hold the contest in different cities. Holding the contest in Tel Aviv will not damage the status of Jerusalem; to suggest otherwise is no more than populism.
I’d like to add two more reasons. The first is the security issue. Everyone realizes that it’s a complicated task to secure Eurovision against inevitable security threats. It will be easier to secure the contest in Tel Aviv than in Jerusalem. Second, most residents of Jerusalem see the Eurovision as irrelevant to their way of life at best, and incompatible with it at worst. Eurovision tourists are not the type who usually visit to Jerusalem and the encounter may create unnecessary friction and protests that would not even be an issue in Tel Aviv.
A song contest is not a military drill or campaign. The only tension that should be present should be focused on who will win and who will get to host the next contest. The decision about the venue for the contest should be taken purely on professional grounds and not on the basis of the populist needs of publicity-seeking politicians eager to win their party primaries. The latter approach only leads to decisions that come back like a boomerang – or like a Messi – to bite us in the face.
If you think about it, most Israelis understand deep inside that Tel Aviv is the right place to hold a truly successful Eurovision – a happy and professional event in the most amazing atmosphere. For all these reasons, the day after Neta won the contest, I contacted the mayor of Tel Aviv and asked him to act quickly and to submit the city’s candidacy to the European Broadcasting Union to host the 2019 Eurovision for the first time in its history.The author is Tel Aviv’s deputy mayor.
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