Capping weeks of uncertainty, Israel unveils its 2024 Eurovision song: ‘Hurricane’

Tune retains some of the lyrics of disqualified ‘October Rain’; singer Eden Golan says ‘we can speak through the song to the world’; Iceland still waiting to confirm participation

Amy Spiro is a reporter and writer with The Times of Israel

Israeli Eurovision contestant Eden Golan. (Ran Yehezkel/Kan)
Israeli Eurovision contestant Eden Golan. (Ran Yehezkel/Kan)

Israel on Sunday unveiled its song for this year’s Eurovision, titled “Hurricane,” capping weeks of uncertainty over its participation in the annual song contest amid protests and accusations of politicization.

The song, to be performed on stage in Malmo, Sweden, in May by Eden Golan, was written by Keren Peles, Avi Ohayon and Stav Beger.

“Hurricane,” which the Kan public broadcaster says is about a woman experiencing a personal crisis, keeps some of the lyrics from “October Rain,” Israel’s original submission which was disqualified by organizers over charges it was too political.

“Look into my eyes and see/ People look away but never say goodbye,” sings Golan in the new song. “Every day I’m losing my mind/ Holding on in this mysterious ride/ Dancing in the storm/ I’ve got nothing to hide/ Take it all and leave the world behind/ Baby promise me you’ll hold me again/ I’m still broken from this hurricane.”

The song is largely in English, except for a few Hebrew lines at the end, which translate to: “We don’t need grandiose words/ Just prayers/ Even though it’s hard to see/ You always leave a small light for me.”

“I ended up [competing] in a not simple year,” said Golan with the reveal of the song. “But on the other hand, I even more so want to represent the country this year, because of its meaning — it has a totally different significance. And we can bring everything we’re feeling, and everything the country is going through, in those three minutes. To speak through the song to the world.”

Israel is one of the final countries to unveil its song ahead of the contest slated for May 7-11, after Eurovision organizers disqualified its first submission on charges that it was politically motivated. Kan originally declared that it would refuse to submit a new song or edit the lyrics, but later agreed to rewrite the original submission to satisfy the European Broadcasting Union, which hosts the competition.

The original submission, “October Rain,” included lyrics reading “Writers of the history/ Stand with me”; “I’m still wet from the October rain/ October rain”; and a final section in Hebrew translated to: “There is no air left to breathe/No place, no me from day to day/They were all good kids, every one of them” — believed to be a reference to those murdered by Hamas on October 7.

Israel’s Kan public broadcaster unveiled “Hurricane” in a celebratory live broadcast Sunday evening, which included a duet between Golan and pop singer Noa Kirel, who represented Israel at last year’s Eurovision and finished in third place with her song “Unicorn.”

As part of the reveal, Kan also aired a documentary exploring “the complexity of Israeli representation on the Eurovision stage throughout the years,” as well as security challenges faced by the delegations at different competitions.

Eden Golan (left) and Noa Kirel performing a duet of ‘Unicorn.’ (Shai Bachar/Kan)

The 1991 contestants, Moshe and Orna Datz, discussed their experiences taking part in the competition not long after the Gulf War and amid the First Intifada. The (now-ex) couple took 3rd place out of 22 countries with their now iconic song “Kan.”

“At our press conferences, they were always asking us, ‘What kind of door are you opening?’ What neighbors are you open to? You’re sitting on occupied lands,'” said Moshe Datz. “The whole time in my head was the thought that we have to bring Israel [to the stage].”

TV writer Hen Avigdori, whose wife and daughter were kidnapped on October 7 and later released from Gaza, said: “I think it’s super important that there should be an Israeli delegation and an Israeli song at the Eurovision… We have to keep going and keep doing, and that doing is also music and showing it to the whole world.”

Israel will be competing in the second semi-final in Malmo on May 9, after the EBU acceded to Kan’s request to avoid holding a dress rehearsal on Yom Hashoah, Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day, earlier in the week.

According to the often predictive betting odds charts, Israel is currently ranked 8th out of 37 participating nations, likely seeing a boost from some corners of Europe due to its ongoing war against Hamas. With two months to go, the current favorite is Croatia’s Baby Lasagna, with his song “Rim Tim Tagi Dim.”

For months Israel has faced a boycott campaign aiming to have it ousted from the singing competition, but the EBU has repeatedly dismissed such efforts, saying that Kan meets all the criteria to participate, and that the competition is among public broadcasters, not governments, and is non-political in nature.

Multiple nations said they would consider quitting the competition in protest if Israel were allowed to compete, but so far no countries have pulled out of the contest on those grounds.

Eden Golan after winning the reality show ‘Hakochav Haba’ (Rising Star) and the right to represent Israel at the Eurovision, February 6, 2024. (Koko/Flash90)

Iceland remains the only country that has yet to officially confirm its participation in this year’s Eurovision, amid loud voices in the country calling on its national broadcaster to boycott the contest over Israel’s inclusion.

Voters in the Nordic country chose to send singer Hera Bjork to this year’s contest earlier this month, passing over heavy favorite Bashar Murad, a Jerusalem-born Palestinian. But in the days since Bjork was crowned the winner of Songvakeppnin, some have claimed there were voting irregularities, and Iceland has not officially confirmed that it will be sending any singer to the contest.

The country’s RÚV public broadcaster stated before the Songvakeppnin finale was held that it would allow the winner to determine if they would appear at the Eurovision, citing the calls from many to back out if Israel is not barred. Both Murad and Bjork said before the final that they would like to compete regardless.

While Israel has secured its spot in the contest, Golan is still expected to face protests and boos at the competition, and security is slated to be on high alert. Many of the popular Eurovision sites and blogs have limited their coverage of Israel’s entry this year over the controversy, citing in part what they saw as the militarization of the “Kochav Haba” TV show which selected this year’s contestant.

Israel has won the competition four times — in 1978, 1979, 1998, and most recently, in 2018, with Netta Barzilai’s “Toy,” enabling the 2019 competition to be hosted in Tel Aviv.

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