Next Year's Eurovision Might Not Be Held in Jerusalem, Senior Israeli Official Says

'Eurovision in Jerusalem? It isn't at all a given,' says head of Culture and Sport Ministry ■ Argentina canceled soccer game with Israel slated for Jerusalem

Israel's Netta performs during the Eurovision Song Contest 2018 rehearsal at the Altice Arena hall in Lisbon, Portugal May 3, 2018
Rafael Marchante/Reuters

A senior Israeli sports and culture official said that the 2019 Eurovision song contest might not take place in Jerusalem, despite Israel winning the completion this year.

Yossi Sharabi, director-general of the Culture and Sport Ministry, made the comments after being asked about the Argentine soccer team's decision to pull out of an exhibition match with Israel because its venue was moved from Haifa to Jerusalem. Sharabi compared Argentina's decision to a "terror attack."

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"Eurovision in Jerusalem? It isn't at all a given," Sharabi told the Sports 5 channel. "It's early to talk about this. Everybody wants it to be in Jerusalem. But there could well be other considerations."

Last month, the Israeli candidate Netta Barzilai won the Eurovision 2018 contest, which was held in Lisbon. By custom, the winning nation hosts the next year's song contest. Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev, together with Communications Minister Ayoob Kara, decided that the Eurovision 2019 would be held in Jerusalem.

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That would involve some logistical complications, one being that Jerusalem and the venue would be violating Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest, and it has already provoked some opposition in ultra-Orthodox circles. Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, himself ultra-Orthodox, already warned that Jerusalem could find itself breaking the Sabbath. There are also the political and security aspects, as Jerusalem is tightly associated with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which could arouse opposition among the nations participating in the Eurovision.

A senior source at the Kan public broadcast corporation told Haaretz that top people at the European Broadcast Union were highly unhappy at the comments made by Regev and Kara about holding the contest in Jerusalem. "For Regev and Kara to make decisions even before they hear anything about hosting the Eurovision is not acceptable as far as the EBU people are concerned," the source said.

Just last month the Eurovision management counseled not buying flight tickets to Israel just yet, until there are official updates on location and timing. They said that the contest will be held in Israel, but the question is where. Stay tuned.