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Why Eurovision 2019 is Important for Israel

May 13, 2019

The annual Eurovision Song Contest, founded in 1956, is huge in Europe and beyond but largely unknown in America. There’s no cash prize but the 42 countries that participate in the competition take it quite seriously; the winning country gets to host the following year’s event. Last year, 186 million viewers tuned in for the finale. This year, the competition is being held in Tel Aviv, and not without the controversy.

Since joining the contest in 1973, Israel has won four times; its first win was in 1978 with Izhar Cohen’s version of “A-Ba-Ni-Bi.” Last year, Israel won with Netta Barzilai performing “Toy.”

The Israeli government originally insisted on holding the 2019 competition in Jerusalem but acquiesced following the controversy over the U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and a fear of boycotts. Tel Aviv is Israel’s “secular cultural capital.”

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