Eurovision Organizers Tell Fans to Hold Off on Booking Flights to Israel - Sparking Instant Controversy

Eurovision management expressed concern over the politicization of the contest, according to Israeli broadcast source

Cyprus’s Eleni Foureira and Israel’s Netta Narzilai at the Altice Arena hall in Lisbon, Portugal, May 8, 2018
PEDRO NUNES / REUTERS

The committee organizing the Eurovision Song Contest called upon fans to hold on booking flights to Israel, where the contest is set to take place in 2019. 

A statement on the contest's official Facebook page said: "Are you already looking forward to next year’s Eurovision? Us too! But don’t go booking your flights just yet, for official updates on where and when it’ll take place, keep an eye out for announcements on our official channels." A debate in the post's comments quickly ensued focused on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and whether or not Israel should host the contest.

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Sources in Israel's public broadcaster Kan said that the Eurovision management expressed concern over the politicization of the contest. A senior source told Haaretz on Tuesday that the European Broadcasting Union, which organizes the Eurovision, "did not care," according to him, for the remarks made by ministers Miri Regev and Ayoub Kara about hosting and producing the contest in Jerusalem.

"The decisions made by Regev and Kara before even hearing anything about hosting the Eurovision are not deemed customary in the eyes of the Union's officials," said the source. Both Regev and Kara demanded their ministries be entrusted with producing the contest, with Kara even claiming he would invite Dubai to compete, despite having no authority to do so.

Earlier in May, Netta Barzilai won the Eurovision Song Contest held in Portugal with the song "Toy." According to contest regulations, the winning country hosts the Eurovision the following year.

The contest is expected to take place in Jerusalem, but the exact date and location have yet to be determined. The contest's final stage is supposed to take place on Saturday night at 10 P.M., two hours after Shabbat. Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman requested his colleagues in the Israeli government not to desecrate Shabbat for the sake of the Eurovision.

Litzman on Monday wrote to Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev, Communications Minister Ayoub Kara and Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, asking that the event not impinge on the Sabbath, “as required by law and the status quo.”

In response, the chairman of the European Broadcasting Union committee responsible for Eurovision, Dr. Frank-Dieter Freiling, told Haaretz that the Eurovision contest must be held Saturday night at 10 P.M, which would be only two hours after Shabbat is out in May. The Sabbath, Freiling said, “cannot be really put into consideration with regards to viewers all over Europe."

Israel hosted the Eurovision Song Contest twice in the past, in 1979 and 1999.