It could have been better – but it could have been much worse too; especially in the aftermath of the January Operation Cast Lead military confrontation with Gaza, and Pope Benedict XVI’s lackluster visit to the Holy Land. The idea behind the sound, sung jointly in Hebrew and Arabic by Yemenite Jewish singer Noa Achinoam and Israeli Arab Mira Awad, mean to emphasize that two peoples can live together in peace and that “there must be a better way” as sung by the pair together in English.
As has been the usual case, in recent Eurovision songfests, European countries appeared to be heavily against the Israeli entry, with most countries either not giving the song “There Must be Another Way” either received no votes at all or 1 token vote out of a possibility of 12 (considered by many to be even more humiliating. When it was all over, Israel received a total of 53 votes, ranking it at position number 16 among the 25 competing countries. Norway literally walked away with the victory this year receiving a whopping 389 votes for their song, Fairytale, sung by lead singer Alexander Rybak, more than any other country in Eurovision history.
Like mentioned at the beginning of this article, the finish for Noa and Mira could have been worse, in light of other disappointing past Israeli performances, including a few years back when Israel finished next to last. Of course, the song itself has a lot to do with who wins these contests, especially with the allowing of all countries to sing in any language they please, as well as hiring foreign singers to do the lead vocals (no worse, we guess, than Israeli basketball and football teams hiring foreign players). But how Rybak, who was born in Bellarus, appeared as an impish Irish fiddler, and managed to wow not only the Eurovision audience, but the voting countries as well, is something that had a touch of magic. In an interview with Israel’s Channel 2 TV,. Ischar Cohen, winner for Israel in the 1978 Eurovision with his song “Abonebi”, said simply that politics was not the problem: “there were just too many good songs – especially the Norwegian one”.
We can’t feel too disappointed, however; as Israel has won the songfest three times and many countries never have been able to put out a victory even once. Norway, trying to follow in the path of the Swedish music group Abba, last won the Eurovision in 1995 – also by singing in English.
Noa and Mira were quoted prior to their performance that their main purpose was to get their message across “even if we finish last”. Finish last they did not; but it would have been nice to have at least finished in the top 8, and preferably in the top for, like another Asian country, Azerbaijan did – also by singing in English. Israeli songwriters, as well as performers are trying to maintain Israel’s uniqueness by singing in its native language, which this year took on a special meaning, along with Mira’s Arabic. We should commend them for this.