a different side of Israel

Tag: Eurovision

Many blame European politics for Israel’s Eurovision finish

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.

Tonight: Kdam Eurovision

The Kdam Eurovision (or Pre-Eurovision) will take place tonight, at 21:45 Jerusalem Time (GMT + 2:00). On the agenda, 4 different songs by Achinoam Nini and Mira Awad, accompanied by musician Gil Dor. Only one of these songs will be chosen to represent Israel in the 2009 Eurovision in Moscow.

As we’d like to believe in our beloved democracy: Every vote counts. So turn on, tune in, and send off your SMS.

AP Photo/Ariel Schalit

AP Photo/Ariel Schalit

Pure Escapism

This week, the Broadcasting Authority (who controls “Channal 1”) has chosen Achinoam Nini — known internationally as Noa — and Mira Awad to represent Israel in the upcoming 2009 Eurovision Song Contest in Moscow, Russia.

Choosing an Arab / Jewish pair to represent Israel in these days of bitter conflict seems like pure escapism. Indeed, several Arab-Israeli artists have made a public appeal to Mira Awad, asking her not to take on the role of Israel’s “fig leaf” while atrocities are being committed in Gaza.

Personally, I think sending this pair can only do good to Jewish – Arab relations inside Israel. We need any glimpse of hope that could help us believe, still, that this land has a future — a viable future, for all its human inhabitants.

Noa & The palestinian singer Nabil Salameh performing together “Centro del Mundo” at Rome in 2002

Israel Pushing The Button

This is the song that represented us in the Eurovision in Helsinki this past May. I think its more then ever an appropriate song….

In Defense of the Finns and the Eurovision

Comments on the recent article appearing in this blog-site regarding Israel’s performance in the annual Eurovision song contest have unfortunately gotten out of hand, with a lot of misunderstandings. The dismal rankings by Israel in this contest was partially due to a song performed by a group who only consented to appear after other groups refused to take part. Singing an American type gospel melody was a bit out of place, even though some Hebrew lyrics were used.

Eurovision Israel has won the contest three times, more than many other participating countries, despite its small size and population. Through the years, many songs sung in the contest by Israeli performers have been good, and many others have not. That can also be said of other countries as well, including ones such as Ireland and the U.K. whose performers have always sung in English, their official language. When the ‘ground rules’ of the songfest where changed a few years ago, allowing non-English speaking countries to enter songs in English as well, many other countries, including Greece, Turkey, Russia, the Ukraine, etc., began placing better, and even winning the contest instead of placing far below others who had the advantage of singing in a more internationally acceptable language, which includes many of the “romance languages” as well.

As years went by, many countries began experimenting with using more dancing, physical gyrations and various fad type of costumes to improve their chances of winning, resulting in their actually taking home the coveted first prize. Countries using this method of increasing interest in their acts have recently included Germany, Russia, the Ukraine, and now Finland. For Finland, one of the more docile of the Nordic or Scandinavian countries, the decision to send this kind of an act to the contest was met with great debate and controversy by the Finns themselves, and was only allowed to proceed in its final format when public opinion allowed it to be done. Many Finnish citizens were afraid that the act might generate the type of opinion against them as was noted in the previous article.

As it turned out, however, the performance received tremendous praise and acclaim by not only the Finns themselves, but millions of viewers as well. The act’s originality and ‘campiness’ won out in the end, especially with younger viewers who voiced their approval by voting in favor of Finland’s entry.

Israel, who finished next to last, with only Malta receiving less votes, will undoubtedly continue to enter the songfest and may one day win again. The lesson to be learned by all is that many factors come into consideration. After all, why did all the Balkan countries vote heavily for each other, and why did so many former “satellite” countries of the former Soviet Union vote heavily for Russia? Alliances and politics do play a part in these events, as they do in other things as well. One must simply put all factors into proper perspective, and judge accordingly. After all, didn’t someone say the following saying, so long ago: “Judge not, lest ye be judged”?

Iran, The Eurovision, and Us

Israel’s fortunes at the annual Eurovision song contest have never been easy, even though we have won the contest three times during its 51 year history. Israel first entered the contest in 1956, and often, the voting results from participating countries have been laced with controversy in regards to biased opinions against the Jewish State. This year, following a number of political controversies that have placed Israel in even more difficult relationships with the E.U. and other European countries, our song entry, sung by imported performer Eddie Butler and a mixed chorus group of Israeli and Afro American singers, finished almost last with only 4 votes, and these coming from (of all places) France.

Israeli singers, including ones like Sarit Hadad and Shiri Maimon, have recently managed to hold their own against the European hordes, and walk away with at least a feeling that they finished respectfully, despite all the negative flack being thrown at them by an increasingly hostile Europe. Last night’s poor results on behalf of the “European Jury” may cause future Israeli native and guest singers to think twice –even thrice – before making the trip to this contest again; this time to be held in Helsinki Finland.

Speaking of the Finns, their ‘heavy metal’ version of The Rocky Mountain Horror Show was nothing less than absolutely disgusting. Many other countries, including Sweden, Germany and even Russia (which came in second) had much better songs than the Finns whose living in Lapland must be so boring that they have to go to these extremes to win a song contest. Their gyrations and bizarre costumes were so grotesque that any sane person can only wonder if the Continent of Europe is once again slipping back into the Dark Ages, like what occurred following the destruction of the Roman Empire by the Huns and Visigoths during the Fourth and Fifth Centuries C.E.

This entire scenario comes on the heels of what has been going in Iran, courtesy of their astute president Mahmoud Admadinejad, who recently proclaimed that Israel is a non legitimate country and therefore should be “wiped off the face of the map”. This almost happened last night in Athens, as it became obvious that no voting country was prepared to give Israel even the least bit of praise or consideration. The four votes that France did give us were most likely because French Jewish citizens, especially the younger ones, got on the phones and cast their vote for the Jewish State. In a way, this was very fitting as more and more French are making Aliyah and purchasing properties in Israel, as they appear to see the writing on the walls concerning their future in the French Republic.

Iran even went one step further in regards to it’s own Jewish community by discussing in Parliament the possibility of passing a law similar to the ‘Nuremberg Laws’ passed by the German Third Reich in the mid 1930’s requiring Jewish citizens to wear stars to identify them as Jews. Though not yet passed into law, the mere discussion of this possibility already has Iranian Jews a bit worried, with their lovely President already being compared to Adolf Hitler.

Not that Israel’s song would have won, but it would surely have finished in a much better position had these modern day ‘Huns’ not been out to assist Mr. Ahmadinejad in his plans. As the saying goes: today the Eurovision, tomorrow Kristalnacht!”

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