Israeli and Jewish music fans tuning in to Saturday night’s Eurovision contest finals hoping to witness some Zionist triumphs may have another candidate to root for besides Israel’s Imri Ziv — Belgian contender Blanche.
Blanche, a.k.a 17-year-old Jewish singer Ellie Delvaux, will perform her song “City Lights” at the glitzy competition in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev.
Delvaux will certainly have one group of rabid fans cheering her on as she takes the stage — her peers and pupils at the Brussels branch, or “nest,” of the Zionist youth group Hashomer Hatzair (“the young guard”).
According to the group, Delvaux has been an enthusiastic member since the first grade, and this year became a counselor for eighth graders.
Haaretz reported that Delvaux was noticed by Belgium’s Eurovision selection committee while participating in the local version of “The Voice.”
Delvaux told local magazine Regards that her family and friends were “very surprised and very happy for me” when she was chosen to represent the country.
“At the Hashomer Hatzair nest my pupils ask me tons of questions and the other counselors tease me a bit, but in general everyone is very excited along with me.”
Delvaux also performed in Israel in April as part of public diplomacy initiative Israel Calling 2017, which hosts many of the Eurovision singers in the Jewish state for a number of days.
“I spoke Hebrew on stage and everyone was shocked!” she recalled. “The audience was great.”
Delvaux hopes to make her country proud. “I will be overjoyed if after many years Belgium once again wins the Eurovision,” she said. “I would like Belgium to feel some pride thanks to me. That would be wonderful.”
Delvaux will be the 23rd singer to perform on Saturday.
Meanwhile the opening act of the show will be Israel’s. Representative Imri Ziv won a trip to the finals of the song contest Thursday night after belting out an assertive rendition of his dance anthem “I Feel Alive” during the second night of the semifinals at the International Exhibition Center in Kiev.
Israel first appeared in the Eurovision in 1973 and it will be its third straight appearance in the finals. Israel won the competition three times, most recently in 1998, when Dana International, a transwoman, won with “Diva.”
Another contestant to cheer on Saturday is Roma singer Joci Pápai, 35, the first Roma to represent Hungary in the continental song competition among 42 countries.
Roma and Jewish groups in Hungary celebrated Pápai’s win. “If he wins that contest, and because of this Hungary would be the host of the next contest, then it would be really something,” Adam Schonberger, a Hungarian Jew who runs Aurora, an organization that encourages dialogue and cooperation between Roma and Jews, told JTA Friday.
Schonberger noted, however, that deep-seated anti-Roma prejudice among segments of the political right in Hungary would likely make it difficult for many Hungarians to rally around Pápai if he wins in the finals Saturday.