“Thank you for allowing diversity. I love my country.” These were the words by an exciting Netta who brought the winner title to Israel at the 2018 Eurovision Song Contest event in Portugal.
Israel won Eurovision with 529 points, followed at a decent distance by Cyprus with 436 points. Both were top favorites to take the trophy home. Austria’s success — a third place with 342 points — came as a surprise.
During her much-anticipated performance, Netta was joined by her pink-haired backing singers and dancers as they do their trademark chicken moves. Also accompanying her on stage are two blocks of shelves filled with 112 Maneki-nekos, the popular Asian beckoning cats often used as lucky charms.
Thousands of people from all over the world enjoyed three spectacular live shows at Lisbon’s Altice Arena this week, with an expected 200 million viewers tuning in on television. It was the very first time Portugal hosted the contest.
Americans who find themselves in Israel in May discovered with a sense of surprise that there exists a major international competition that is important to much of the world…and has nothing to do with soccer….but Americans barely know it.
The Eurovision song contest was combining in-house judging and popular reaction to musical performances decades before “Idol” came along. But unlike other nations, in order for it to do battle within the parameters of an international contest, Israel must also fight the forces of “BDS” – the Palestinian-initiated effort to isolate the Jewish state by not participating in cultural, academic, sporting or professional events. Israelis often debate the effectiveness of the BDS organization’s efforts to recruit support, some arguing that the effort it takes to counter those efforts is, in itself, a victory for Israel’s detractors.
So, it was within that context that Israel offered a contestant with a serious chance to win. Netta Barzilai, a 25-year old who electrified the Lisbon audience (the venue is the home turf of the previous year’s winner), did her part in the area while others tackled the popular vote – knowing that the BDSers were lighting up social media with exhortations to vote against the Israeli act. Barzilai’s lyrics included a reference to “Wonder Woman” – thus unleashing the Jewish state’s secret weapon. Gal Gadot, the Israeli actress who portrayed the character in the blockbuster film recruited her own social media following of 19 million to support the home team, and apparently, they came through. Netta’s unabashed display of affection for her country was celebrated back home in a reminder of the gift she will present to her country: next year’s hosting of the contest, worth millions of dollars to the nation’s economy. Barzilai ended her tv appearance with the traditional greeting: “Next Year in Jerusalem!”
Israel also won the second Semi-Final with a grand total of 283 points.
Netta won this year’s Rising Star reality music show, HaKokhav HaBa L’Eurovizion (‘The Next Star For Eurovision’) and the ticket to represent Israel in the 2018 Eurovision Song Contest. The ambitious and determined 25-year-old has an extensive background in music.
She finished high school with excellence merit in extended music studies and went on to study in the renowned Rimon School of Music in the Electronic Studies Department.