Participants in the Eurovision song contest are so far refusing to let the war drums drown out their campy pop tunes Saturday.
As Cyprus took the stage Saturday morning to kick off the first day of official rehearsals in Tel Aviv, some 40 miles (60 kilometers) south Israelis were sprinting toward bomb shelters as the first of hundreds of rockets were lobbed toward Sderot and Ashkelon.
It was a nightmare scenario for the concert’s European organizers, Israeli hosts and acts from around the world, who fear a round of violence could overshadow the carefully choreographed four-day event later this month.
But if they were sweating over the deadly tensions to rock the Gaza region over the weekend, they refused to show it from the cavernous Tel Aviv Expo center in the north of the city, insisting that the show would go on and refusing to do any more than even acknowledge the violence in the south.
“We are responsible for the production of Eurovision and the country is responsible for the safety of the citizens and the people,” said event host Sivan Avrahami at a press conference Saturday with the band D Mol from Montenegro, adding that the organizers were “following the home-front defense instructions.”
One D Mol member said that while they didn’t know anything about what was happening, “We are here to sing and we hope the music will beat everything.”
The five-day gala event is scheduled to open in Tel Aviv on May 14 with 41 countries participating. Israel won the 2018 contest and with it the rights to host this year’s event.
???? Triangles, seats, lights and more triangles!
This is what the 21-days build up of the main hall looks like in under a minute! ⏭️ pic.twitter.com/ZeHqzEi1Ox
— KAN Eurovision Israel (@kaneurovision) May 4, 2019
Rocket fire from Gaza, controlled by the Hamas terror group, started Friday night and escalated over the weekend, with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group vowing to disrupt the Eurovision contest, which is expected to attract thousands of tourists to Israel.
“We will prevent the enemy from succeeding in establishing any festival aimed at harming the Palestinian narrative,” PIJ said in a statement released as the Israel Air Force began pounding dozens of terror targets throughout the Strip in response to the 150 rockets fired at Gaza border towns on Saturday.
One Israeli man was killed early Sunday morning and several others were wounded over the weekend in rocket strikes.
At least two Palestinians were reported killed in the Israeli strikes, both of whom were said to have been part of rocket launching teams. Gazan authorities also blamed the deaths of a mother and her baby on Israel, but the IDF denied responsibility and said they were likely the result of a failed rocket launch.