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Israel Kicks Off Eurovision Despite Calls for Boycotts, Violence

05-15-2019
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Some 200 million people are expected to watch the annual Eurovision Song Contest on Saturday.  This year the “live” event is in Tel Aviv, Israel although the BDS Movement and Hamas tried to stop it.

For Israel, hosting Eurovision is an opportunity to impress an audience that wouldn’t necessarily have visited the Holy Land. 

“I thought that life would be maybe a little less normal than other countries but it’s actually pretty standard. I’m staying in a suburb nearby that feels a little bit like California in a way. And I think that was the most surprising thing,” said Dago, who was originally from Colombia and now lives in Spain.

“I think the people are very lovely to the tourists and I feel very safe in this country.  For me it was a surprise because I didn’t know how it is in Israel,” said Christian from Austria, who is attending Eurovision for the ninth time.  Though it’s his first time in Israel, he said it wouldn’t be his last.

There’s a lot of excitement in Israel about the contest, with Israel’s public broadcaster KAN hosting the event.  More than 40 countries have come to Tel Aviv for this year’s contest.

Israel got the chance to host the event because its own Netta Barzilai won the contest last year in Portugal. Netta told CBN News why she thinks people should watch the show.

“It’s the cheesiest, corniest, funnest thing to watch. The bad songs are so fun and the good songs are so fun. Everything is fun,” Netta said. 

The anti-Israel BDS Movement launched a campaign to convince artists and fans to boycott the competition. While a handful of protestors came to Tel Aviv, no contestant backed out.

“To boycott Tel Aviv, to boycott Israel is stupid because it doesn’t (gain anything). We are living with the Palestinians – they make business with us, we make business with them and they don’t boycott us and we don’t boycott them,” said Loren, an Israeli businessman who immigrated from Belgium.  “So why (do) people who are from abroad want to boycott Israel when Palestinians don’t boycott Israel?” he asked.

“I’ve been to Russia with the Eurovision song contest. I’ve been to Azerbaijan. I’ve been to Israel. To me it doesn’t matter the politic(s), it’s the music that makes me come here,” said Tim, who is a radio reporter from Germany and has been to Eurovision seven times.

Israel countered with its own B-D-S campaign – showing a land that’s “beautiful, diverse, sensational.” 

Two weeks before the competition, Hamas and the Iranian-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad launched a massive rocket attack on southern Israel, killing four Israelis. But even that didn’t slow down the show’s followers.

“Of course we heard about the bombs two weeks ago and you’re asking yourself, is it sure, is it safe to travel there but I wasn’t afraid at any time,” said Tim. “I mean it can happen to you anytime and anywhere that any crazy guy bombs himself and you get hit by this. That can happen in Germany, USA, Israel, everywhere.”

“I was not scared to come here to Israel because nowadays no place is completely secure, so I think there is really no big risk here now in Israel to come,” said Esteban from Barcelona, Spain.

  Israel’s contestant this year is Kobi Marimi.  

Some 1,500 journalists from more than 40 countries and some 10,000 tourists are expected to arrive for this extravaganza that’s costing more $30 million dollars.

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