Israel came up short at the Eurovision semi-final in Turin, Italy, on Thursday night, failing to advance to Saturday’s final for the first time since 2014.
Michael Ben David’s performance of his song “I.M.” failed to garner enough votes to put him in the top 10 in order to advance to the final round of the competition, breaking a streak of six consecutive years of Israel appearing in the finale.
“Thank you so much, love yourself, be proud of who you are,” Ben David, 25, proclaimed as he wrapped his song on the stage on Thursday evening.
“I.M.,” an upbeat pop anthem about self-empowerment, was written by Chen Aharoni, Lidor Saadia and Asi Tal.
Belgium, the Czech Republic, Azerbaijan, Poland, Finland, Estonia, Australia, Sweden, Romania and Serbia advanced to the final following the voting by both judges and the public.
They will face those who qualified from the first semi-final on Tuesday, as well as the “big five” countries that automatically qualify each year.
“I’m the luckiest person in the world,” Ben David, a native of Ashkelon told his followers on Instagram just before the live semi-final performance. “We’re going to give the performance of our lives and I hope you’ll be proud of me… let’s do it!”
During the live broadcast, just as the hosts were about to announce the start of voting, Ben David wandered into the live shot and slung his arms around the hosts, planting a seemingly unwelcome kiss on one of them. The display did not go over well on social media.
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But Ben David will still leave Turin with some happy news: on Wednesday he got engaged to his longtime boyfriend, actor Roee Ram.
Ukraine’s Kalush Orchestra, with its song “Stefania,” is predicted to take the top prize, riding a wave of geopolitical sympathy following Russia’s invasion in March.
The European Broadcasting Union, which arranges the competition, announced in late February that Russia would be barred from the competition following its invasion of Ukraine.
In addition to Ukraine, the UK’s Sam Ryder is predicted to do particularly well on Saturday night after several years of disappointing finishes. The UK finished in last place in both of the past two contests, receiving a crushing zero points from both the juries and the televote in Rotterdam, Netherlands, last year.
Ben David was selected as Israel’s contestant this year after appearing on “The X-Factor” competition, following six years of the entrant being chosen by the rival show “Hakochav Haba (Rising Star).”
After performing in the dress rehearsal on Wednesday night — which is the performance used by the juries in awarding their points — Ben David posted his gratitude on social media.
“Thank you for the gifts God has granted me,” he wrote on Instagram: “An engagement, appearing in the Eurovision, and love from my country.”
Israel has won the Eurovision Song Contest four times since it began taking part in 1973: first in 1978 with “A-Ba-Ni-Bi,” then a year later with “Hallelujah,” again in 1998 with “Diva” and most recently in 2018 with “Toy.” The 2020 competition was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.