Israel’s representative to the Eurovision 2016 Song Contest, Hovi Star, qualified for the final after his song, “Made of Stars,” scored high during the second semifinal held in Stockholm Thursday evening.
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He will compete in Saturday's final against 25 other countries, including the entries from Belgium, Latvia, Georgia, Bulgaria, Australia, Ukraine, Serbia, Poland and Lithuania.
The win is impressive due to tough competition this year and the relatively high number of eastern European nations participating, nations that have historically voted for one another.
The song was written by Doron Medalie, who is in Sweden with the Israeli delegation.
“Since the first rehearsal last week and until the dress rehearsal, we’ve done really well and rose in the odds from 25th place to 8th,” Medalie told Haaretz from Stockholm ahead of the show.
“We must be doing something right. Hovi will give an amazing performance and I have no doubt that we can win this semifinal, although it’s not easy this year. This is the harder of the two semifinals, with lots of [good] songs and performances.”
This is Medalie’s second consecutive year at the Eurovision Song Contest. Last year he wrote “Golden Boy,” performed by Nadav Guedj, which finished ninth. This year, the competition is expected to be harder for Israel because of the strong lineup, which Eurovision experts say is one of the best in recent years.
Twenty-six countries will compete in Saturday's final. One Israeli assured of a place in the final is Amir Haddad, representing France with the song “J’ai cherché” (“I Was Searching”), which is already a hit on French radio stations. However, Haddad has attracted sharp criticism from some in France because some of the lyrics are sung in English – which represented a big blow to Gallic pride.
Bernard Pivot was among the song’s detractors, with the TV host complaining that all the words in a song representing France should be in French.
This year’s Eurovision Song Contest, the 61st, has generated some headlines unconnected to the quality of the music. One was supplied by the Armenians when singer Iveta Mukuchyan’s delegation waved the flag of Nagorno-Karabakh – the region disputed by Armenia and Azerbaijan – while waiting in the green room prior to the first semifinal (the Armenians qualified for the final).
Russia also garnered quite a few headlines. Its entry, “You Are The Only One,” performed by Sergey Lazarev, is one of the favorites to win. But another story revealed that a member of the Russian jury documented her colleagues while they were voting, which is against contest rules (which demand complete secrecy). In response, the European Broadcasting Union ruled that the Russian judge has been barred from taking part in the final.