Tel Aviv to host 2019 Eurovision Song Contest

JTA

Singer Netta Barzilai waves to the audience at Altice Arena in Lisbon after Israel’s song “Toy” is announced winner of the 2018 Eurovision Song Contest. (Pedro Gomes/Getty Images)

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Tel Aviv will host the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest.

The event will be held at the Expo Tel Aviv International Convention Center, both the Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality and the Eurovision Song Contest announced on Thursday.

The dates of the event also were announced. The semifinals will be held on May 14 and May 16, and the Grand Final will take place on May 18.

Both Jerusalem and Eilat also vied to host the live contest, which last year attracted 186 million television viewers. Some 20,000 tourists are expected to arrive in Tel Aviv to participate in Eurovision events.

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Israel won the right to host the 2019 Eurovision after singer Netta Barzilai won the competition in May. Israel, which has won the contest four times, will host the contest for a third time having previously staged the Eurovision Song Contest in Jerusalem in 1979 and 1999. Israel has participated in the contest 42 times since its first appearance in 1973.

A letter sent by the European Broadcasting Union to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in care of the Israel Public Broadcasting Corporation late last month stated that Israel must allow preparation work for Eurovision to take place on Shabbat, including the dress rehearsal, and cannot prevent anyone from entering the country to participate in Eurovision based on their political opinions. The letter also sought assurances that freedom of the press and freedom of expression will be allowed for all participants and that the KAN public broadcaster have total independence to handle the contest.

Last week, a public  letter published in the British daily newspaper The Guardian, signed by 140 musicians and other artists from some 14 countries, called for a boycott of Eurovision because it is being held in Israel.

“Until Palestinians can enjoy freedom, justice and equal rights, there should be no business-as-usual with the state that is denying them their basic rights,” the letter said.

Six Israelis, including five Israeli musicians and one artist, signed the letter.

“Eurovision 2019 should be boycotted if it is hosted by Israel while it continues its grave, decades-old violations of Palestinian human rights. We understand that the European Broadcasting Union is demanding that Israel finds a “non-divisive” location for the 2019 Eurovision. It should cancel Israel’s hosting of the contest altogether and move it to another country with a better human rights record. Injustice divides, while the pursuit of dignity and human rights unites,” the letter concluded.

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