Pop star Noa Kirel confirmed at a press conference on Wednesday that she would be representing Israel at the 2023 Eurovision Song Contest.
Kirel was selected last month by the Kan public broadcaster to compete on behalf of Israel next year. But immediately following the announcement, she expressed public hesitation about taking part, saying that she would have to fully consider the offer before making a final decision.
On Wednesday, Kirel told reporters that she had decided to accept the opportunity to compete at the Eurovision next year.
“With all of Israel behind me, I am embarking on this journey to bring great pride to this country,” Kirel said. “Thank you for this incredible honor… I am already starting today to work [on my Eurovision performance], and as you know about me, to work hard. Cross your fingers and fasten your seatbelts!”
Kirel said that she received the phone call informing her she had been selected to compete while sitting in the back of a cab in Warsaw.
“It started with shock, I took a deep breath, and by the third second I was already imagining myself on that insane stage with hundreds of millions of viewers while representing my beloved country,” she said.
Despite her hesitations, Kirel said, “I am moving forward with full faith. Like everywhere in the world I have performed — whether in IDF uniform or on the biggest stages in the world — I have always felt proud to represent my country.”
The 2023 competition will be held in the UK, with the host city to be decided at a later date. Ukraine’s Kalush Orchestra took home the win at the 2022 contest in May, but the European Broadcasting Union, which organizes the contest, admitted that the war-torn country would not be able to host next year, as is traditional for the winning country.
In a break from previous years, Israel will be sending a seasoned performer to the contest, after relative newcomers had been selected to compete via reality TV show each year since 2015. This time, Kan convened an internal selection committee that picked Kirel, noting that they were looking for someone with both talent and experience.
According to Kan, Kirel was the committee’s first choice, winning its unanimous support out of a list of 78 contenders made up of chart toppers and proven musical acts.
At the press conference on Wednesday, Kirel said it was not yet decided how Israel’s song for the 2023 contest will be selected.
“Everything is being done in cooperation with Kan, but, yes, I will have artistic freedom to represent myself the way I want,” she said. “They are relying on me and I am relying on them — but it’s too early to talk about how the process will happen.”
Reports have circulated in recent weeks that the singer had demanded full artistic freedom over the song choice before agreeing to participate, although Kirel denied there had been any sort of negotiation about her decision.
She admitted Wednesday that she had to “put my ego aside” to make the decision to compete, knowing that she could potentially finish in a poor position.
“I put my ego aside, I put my fears and the risks aside,” she said. “I don’t know if I’ll do well or not, but if I don’t take the chance, I’ll never know… of course it’s scary, and there’s always politics involved.”
“From the first day of my career,” she added, “I have taken risks. That’s part of my career, but I’m putting the fear aside and focusing on the fact that I am representing my country on this enormous stage.”
Kirel noted that she will likely have to answer questions about Israel’s actions, as politics often play a role in the purportedly apolitical competition. “I am aware that they will ask me about Israel in interviews, and I consider it a great honor,” she said. “I will do my research and I will arrive with accurate answers.”
Kirel, 21, is one of Israel’s most famous current pop singers, known for her hit singles “Pouch,” “Million Dollar” and “Tikitas.” She is regularly in demand at events across the country and the subject of intense paparazzi coverage. Kirel completed her IDF service earlier this year after serving as part of its “talent track,” performing for troops and pursuing a career at the same time.
Israel has won the Eurovision four times: 1978, with Izar Cohen’s “A-ba-ni-bi,” 1979 with Milk and Honey’s “Hallelujah,” 1998 with Dana International’s “Diva,” and 2018 with Netta Barzilai’s “Toy.”