Israel's Jewish-Arab Duo Finishes 16th in Eurovision Final

Israel's Achinoam Nini and Mira Awad sang in English, Hebrew and Arabic; favorite Norway wins big.

Israel's Jewish-Arab singing duo, Achinoam Nini and Mira Awad, came up short Saturday in their bid to bring Israel its fourth Eurovision victory, finishing in 16th place.

Favorite Norway, represented by Alexander Rybak with the song "Fairytale," blew away the 25-nation field to win with a record 387 points.

Israel finished with 53 points, winning points from 10 of the 42 voting countries. France awarded Israel 10 points, while Belgium and Bosnia-Herzegovina gave Israel eight points. Andorran, Estonian and Slovakian voters also rated the Israeli duo highly.

Despite hopes of success in Israel, the pair was a long shot from the start. Most British bookmakers offered around 150-1 on Israel to win the song contest, with only Croatia rated lower.

Nini and Awad won a place in the finals on Tuesday night, when they performed the song "There Must be Another Way" in English, Hebrew and Arabic, competing against 17 other artists.

The competition, which began in Moscow at 10 P.M. Israel time Saturday, draws about 100 million TV viewers every year.

The choice of a Jewish-Arab team to represent Israel at the competition had sparked criticism and debate with a gravity that couldn't be further from the Eurovision competition itself, a festival of flamboyant pop and unapologetic kitsch.

Nini, a regular on the world music scene known internationally as Noa, and Awad, a local actress and singer, were selected by Israel's national broadcasting authority. Their selection came a day after Israel launched its Gaza offensive in December to halt rocket fire by Hamas militants.

Awad, who is the first Arab ever to represent Israel at the competition, was criticized for agreeing to go and became the subject of a petition organized by Israeli Arab artists who said sending her and Nini, a veteran peace activist, was a deliberate attempt to portray Israel as something it is not.

Israel won the tournament in 1978, 1979 and 1998.