Israel’s Netta Barzilai won the Eurovision song competition on Saturday night, bringing the first place victory to the Jewish state for the first time in 20 years.
Barzilai’s performance of her song “Toy” in Lisbon, Portugal, defeated 25 other finalists and won with 529 points, garnered from viewers who voted from around the world.
“I’m so happy, thank you so much,” the emotional Barzilai said upon taking the stage when her victory was announced.
“I love my country!” she yelled. “Next time in Jerusalem!” At a press conference after her win, Barzilai thanked her fans and tearfully said, “I’m so happy we were able to reach hearts, I’m so happy we were able to change [Israel’s] image. It’s time. We deserve this.”
Reports from an Israeli television personality suggested that Eurovision officials tried to downplay Jerusalem’s status as the capital of Israel.
Just moments after Israel’s victory was announced, Kan 11’s Erez Tal revealed that Eurovision presenters referred to scoring stations broadcasting from their nations capitals, but purposefully did not note Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. He added that the omission was intentional, with the goal issued as a directive to the broadcasters.
However, the move was ultimately unsuccessful due to Barzilai’s win, which will bring the competition to Jerusalem next year.
Barzilai has openly stated that she hoped to bring Eurovision to Israel’s capital city, Jerusalem, and said early on Sunday that she is “proud to bring this magical event to Israel.”
The singer performed at Israel’s official 70th-anniversary “Independence Day” celebration last month in Jerusalem.
Israel’s last Eurovision win was in 1998, when Dana International won with “Diva.” Prior to that, Israel won in 1978 with “A-Ba-Ni-Bi” and in 1979 with “Hallelujah,”
Though Barzilai now hopes to continue on to a professional singing career, she said that she would continue to perform at weddings because “it’s a mitzvah [positive commandment] to bring joy to a bride and a groom” (though she quipped that now her fee would increase).
Israelis poured into the streets at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv after the win to celebrate. Barzilai even received a call from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who told her that he and his wife, Sara, had been up cheering “Netta, Netta, Netta! We are waiting for you [in Israel]. We love you” and “Next year in Jerusalem,” adding “you’re the best ambassador for Israel.”
Prior to her performance, Barzilai received a call from Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, who thanked her for putting “the State of Israel at the forefront of creation in the world,” adding, “when you take the stage tonight, remember, you’re not alone for a moment. An entire country is behind you. From Jerusalem, from me and [my wife] Nechama, I’m sending you a ‘douze points.’ ”
Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev lauded Netta for bringing “great honor to the State of Israel,” and said “Netta brought a great gift to the State of Israel, which is celebrating 70 years of its independence, and to Jerusalem, which is celebrating today 51 years of its liberation and reunification.” PJC