Israeli singer Netta Barzilai won the 2018 Eurovision song contest Saturday night, May 12, on the strength of overwhelming support from viewers at home.
The panel of judges had Barzilai third before the fan votes were accounted for. In the live reveal, it came down to Barzilai and the entry from Cyprus.
Barzilai was considered one of the favorites in the 43-nation pop music competition, in which each country has one artist with one song. Her song, “Toy,” is a strong fit for the #MeToo era, with its expression of women’s strength and refusal to be controlled by a man.
For example, this pre-competition handicapping of the contestants put Barzilai, who supplements her singing with some interesting sound effects, in first.
Because of Barzilai’s win, the fourth in Israel’s history but the first in 20 years, the Eurovision finals will be held in Jerusalem in 2019.
“These days Jerusalem is being blessed with many gifts,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the start of Sunday’s weekly Cabinet meeting. “We received another one last night with Netta’s thrilling and suspenseful victory. The gift is that Eurovision will come to Jerusalem next year; we will be very proud to host it. I think that we will deal with everything involved in order to enable another major event with a large international audience to be held in our city, in our country.”
You can watch her Lisbon performance below.
“Thank you Europe,” Barzilai tweeted after her win.
Thank you Europe.
— Netta Barzilai (@NettaBarzilai) May 12, 2018
We at the AJT don’t entirely understand the Eurovision contest or have full appreciation for its pop music sensibilities. But Israel’s victory caused quite a stir.
Our partners at The Times of Israel reported that Israelis poured into Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square and partied across Jerusalem.
Supporters of Israel sent messages of congratulations. Author J.K. Rowling was one notable celebrity who tweeted praise for Barzilai as a deserving winner.
But because it’s Israel, the competition was not free of politics. Israeli broadcaster Gan reported that the show’s presenters were instructed to introduce each competing nation with its capital — except for Israel, whose capital was not mentioned, this avoiding controversy over the status of Jerusalem.
— Amichai Stein (@AmichaiStein1) May 13, 2018
And, of course, pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel activists were busy during and after the contest, protesting in Lisbon and tweeting criticism of Israel, Eurovision and Barzilai after the results were announced.