A mini Eurovision – in Tel Aviv

Contestants from 28 countries in international competition will tour Israel and perform.

IMRI ZIV will represent Israel at Eurovision 2017 next month. (photo credit: RONEN AKERMAN)
IMRI ZIV will represent Israel at Eurovision 2017 next month.
(photo credit: RONEN AKERMAN)
The annual glitzy Eurovision competition extravaganza isn’t happening until next month.
But this week, Israel is getting ahead of the game by hosting a mini competition in Tel Aviv featuring 28 of the slated performers as part of its “Israel Calling” initiative and, hopefully, showcasing a fair amount of the show’s usual sequins and drama.
Israel Calling, running for its second year, is a program organized by the Foreign Affairs and Tourism ministries, that invites all 43 entrants in the competition to tour Israel and perform in a mini preview concert. The event is also sponsored by the Israeli advocacy NGO StandWithUs, KKL-JNF and the Jerusalem Affairs Ministry.
“Last year, we had an amazing reaction, amazing feedback. All of them went back to their countries very excited,” said TV producer Tali Eshkoli, who created and spearheaded the event. This year, she said, even more acts are coming to take part.
“In Eurovision, you can’t vote for your own country, so you must have some votes from other countries,” she said. “So it’s in their interest to come and expose themselves and the song to the Israeli audience.”
This year, 28 of the acts – up from 19 last year – will arrive in Israel on Monday for the four-day trip, during which they will tour the country, meet officials and take part in the “mini Eurovision” contest Wednesday night. The delegation is made up of 43 musicians from 27 other countries (some acts are duos or groups), many of whom are coming with foreign media in tow. In addition to seeing Tel Aviv, they will spend a day in Jerusalem visiting the Old City and the Western Wall, enjoy a yacht cruise from the Herzliya marina and take part in a tree-planting event in the “Eurovision Forest” started last year in the President’s Forest outside Beit Shemesh.
Of course, Israel’s entrant for this year’s competition, Imri Ziv – who was selected after winning the Hakochav Haba (“The Next Star”) TV show – will be accompanying the group throughout their visit.
The acts from Ireland, Denmark, Latvia, Armenia, Macedonia, San Marino, Norway, Lithuania, Sweden, Austria, Spain, Moldova, Montenegro, Romania, Belgium, Bulgaria, Switzerland, Germany, Czech Republic, Malta, Serbia, Georgia, Belarus, Finland, Poland and France will all be participating.
Omar Naber of Slovenia, whose father is Jordanian, will also be coming to Israel for the event. He has come under fire in his home country, as some activists are unhappy with his selection to represent Slovenia since he served time in prison in 2011 for sexual assault. Eshkoli said she was unaware of Naber’s history, and he had no problem attaining a visa.
Neither Albania nor Azerbaijan – both Muslim-majority countries – will be sending a participant to Israel.
The international song contest has been around since 1956 – with Israel participating since 1973 – and is an integral part of European pop culture.
A record-breaking more than 200 million people watched last year’s competition, where Israeli Hovi Star came in 14th place. In 2015, Israeli Nadav Guedj came in 9th place with his song Golden Boy. Israel has won the competition three times in its 39 performances: 1978’s A-Ba-Ni-Bi by Alphabeta, 1979’s Hallelujah by Gali Atari and 1998’s Diva by Dana International.
The 2017 Eurovision song contest will take place in May in Kiev.