'There is nothing like an Israeli party'

After Eurovision win, Jerusalem gears up to strut stuff on world stage

Mayor offers all help needed in hosting contest, which gives city chance to present friendlier side, but it could mean coughing up big bucks

Joshua Davidovich is The Times of Israel's Deputy Editor

Netta Barzilai celebrates after winning the Eurovision Song Contest grand final in Lisbon, Portugal, May 12, 2018. (AP Photo/Armando Franca)
Netta Barzilai celebrates after winning the Eurovision Song Contest grand final in Lisbon, Portugal, May 12, 2018. (AP Photo/Armando Franca)

Netta Barzilai’s Eurovision win kicked off massive street parties in Tel Aviv Sunday morning, but next year it’s expected Jerusalem will be the city celebrating the song contest.

Israel’s win, its first since 1998, means it wins the right to host next year’s finals, which has transformed in those intervening decades into a massive extravaganza with two rounds, tens of thousands of fans, and millions more tuning in around the world.

Barzilai scarcely had time to change out of her red and black kimono before city officials and politicians in Israel were crowing about plans to host the contest in Jerusalem.

“Next year in Jerusalem,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a congratulatory message, a sentiment echoed by many others, not least Barzilai.

“There is nothing like an Israeli party. You will find out next year,” Barzilai said after her win, yelling “Next year in Jerusalem.”

Speaking to Israel’s Kan broadcaster, she said she looked forward to the world seeing “the Israeli carnival” when Jerusalem hosts the contest.

People will see “how wonderful we are. What a vibe we have. Best people… the best place in the world,” she said.

Despite the win coming in the middle of the night in Israel, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat was among the many to quickly congratulate Barzilai and thank her for giving his city the chance to host the competition.

“The city of Jerusalem will grant any help needed in putting up Eurovision 2019 in the capital of Israel and together we will expose the beautiful face of Jerusalem to the whole world,” he said.

The other three Eurovision contests to be held in Israel were all at the International Convention Center, but city hall hinted the venue may change this year, tweeting out a picture of the 15,000-seat Pais Arena, which opened in 2014.

The event would be the biggest non-political or sporting event put on by the capital in years. With Jerusalem fraught with political and security concerns, most major artists who visit Israel opt for more culturally open Tel Aviv and its outdoor Ganei Yehoshua amphitheater or Menora Mivtachim Arena.

But with officials constantly looking to showcase Jerusalem as the country’s capital and beating heart — Israel recently insisted on hosting a friendly with the Argentinian soccer team in Jerusalem, despite Lionel Messi and co. requesting to hold the game in Haifa instead — the contest will offer an opportunity to shed the image of the city as a cultural backwater beset by security concerns.

The cost of hosting

Eurovision was first held in 1956 with the aim of uniting Europe after World War II.

Today it has an estimated global audience of around 200 million people — more than the Super Bowl in the United States — and has served as a global launching pad for the likes of ABBA and Celine Dion. Israel first entered the contest in 1973. Barzilai was the fourth Israeli winner.

Hosting Eurovision will come with a price tag for Israel. In 2015, Vienna, Austria, spent 31 million euros (NIS 135 million) to host the contest, and in 2012 Baku, Azerbaijan, spent 54 million euros (NIS 231 million), with incoming tourist dollars recouping just a fraction of the outlay.

But as Barzilai’s chicken sounds make clear, Israelis are likely prepared to cough up big bucks for the contest.

A 2001 Hebrew University study of Israel’s 1999 hosting duties found holding the event in Israel had a slight economic benefit, and that it could also spark limited further economic development down the road.

“Successfully hosting a media-intensive event such as this generates a demonstration effect and opens the door for future events,” authors Aliza Fleischer and Daniel Felsenstein wrote.


A similar analysis by Royal Bank of Scotland Economist Stephen Boyle in 2016 also saw some, but not much, benefit in hosting.

“It’s hard to be conclusive. Every host city has seen a modest boost in both short-term tourism and in their local economy. The longer-term benefits are harder to estimate but with over 180 million viewers worldwide, the international, positive exposure that comes as part of hosting is likely to dramatically increase tourism related revenue,” he wrote. “Plus, there’s the kudos of winning, and in some eyes, that’s just as important.”

AFP contributed to this report.

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