For the first time in five years, Israel has qualified for the Eurovision finals set to take place in Vienna on Saturday.
Representing Israel this year at the song contest is 16-year-old Nadav Guedj, who performed his pop song “Golden Boy” in front of a rather exuberant audience at the semi-finals on Thursday night. Guedj is the winner of the second season of the Israeli reality TV show “The Next Star.”
The song was released in March and is sung entirely in English.
Israel is among 20 qualifiers for the international contest and will battle countries such as Australia, Azerbaijan, Poland, Latvia and Montenegro for the top spot.
Israel has failed to qualify for the finals since 2010, but still competes every year despite facing tough odds in the contest seemingly tied to its geopolitical standing.
In recent years, Israeli performers have also had more to worry about than being snubbed.
The Jewish Chronicle reported that Israeli singer Moran Mazor was under heavy guard when she performed Israel’s Eurovision entry in Malmo in August 2013, and Israeli journalists who went to cover the contest found themselves under threat as well, according to Haaretz.
This year Ilan Mor, Israel’s ambassador to Hungary, protested Hungary’s entry into the contest, which contains text shown on a screen behind the singer criticizing last summer’s military campaign in Gaza and accusing Israel of having killed hundreds of Palestinian children during the operation.
A senior official of Hungary’s broadcasting authority told Mor that the Eurovision rules banning political content would be upheld, and that the sentence about Operation Protective Edge would be erased, the European Jewish Congress’s website reported in March.
Israel first entered the Eurovision in 1973 and has won the contest three times — the first in 1978 with Izhar Cohen’s “A-ba-ni-bi”; then in 1979 with “Hallelujah,” performed by Gali Atari; and in 1998 with Dana International’s “Diva.”