Crowd favorite Shalva Band pulls out of Eurovision contention

Musical group chooses Shabbat over international song contest.

The eight-member Shalva Band (photo credit: KESHET)
The eight-member Shalva Band
(photo credit: KESHET)
The Shalva Band, a group of musicians with disabilities, will pull out of the race to represent Israel at the Eurovision because of the group’s Shabbat observance.
The Jerusalem Post confirmed Tuesday that the band has informed Keshet, the network that airs Hakochav Haba (Rising Star), that it could not continue in the competition.
The Shalva Band – a favorite among judges and viewers – already earned a spot in the finale of the show, which is set to air on February 12. But the group – which includes several religiously observant members – decided to quit the show after it realized it could not perform at the Eurovision without violating the Shabbat.
While Keshet said it informs all contestants that appearing at the Eurovision involves rehearsals and filming on Friday evening and Saturday, the Shalva Band apparently never imagined it would make it to the finale. While it explored several options to allow its participation, including a Shabbat-friendly microphone, the band ultimately decided it could not move forward with the show.
Several Israeli officials – including Culture Minister Miri Regev – appealed to the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) to bend its rules. The EBU refused to commit to changing its tight schedule to accommodate the group. The grand finale rehearsal, which is held on Friday evening, is filmed and sent to international judges to vote on, and also kept on hand in case of technicalities during the live Saturday night broadcast. The EBU said that all contestants in the show are obligated to attend all rehearsals and performances, and exceptions can only be considered after a final act has been chosen.
The band is slated to record a clip bidding goodbye to the show on Wednesday, which is scheduled to air on Thursday evening on Hakochav Haba, Keshet said.
A spokeswoman for Keshet would not say if the band would be replaced by another act in the finale of the show next week.
The eight-member band, which came together through the Shalva National Children’s Center in Jerusalem, has consistently received top scores from the judges and the studio audience for its performances.
Dena, an immigrant from India, and Annael, an immigrant from France – the band’s lead singers – are both blind. Yosef has Williams syndrome, Yair and Tal have Down syndrome, and Guy is visually impaired. They’re joined by Shai, the band’s manager, who helped found the group after a long recovery from a serious injury during his IDF service, and Sarah, the daughter of Kalman and Malki Samuels, the founders of the Shalva Center.