Gal Gadot, and maybe Madonna, headed for Eurovision
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Gal Gadot, and maybe Madonna, headed for Eurovision

Tel Aviv planners want to show European tourists and song contest visitors that Israel ‘is awesome’

Jessica Steinberg covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center.

The planned stage of Eurovision 2019 in Tel Aviv (Courtesy Eurovision 2019)
The planned stage of Eurovision 2019 in Tel Aviv (Courtesy Eurovision 2019)

There are 29 days until May 12, when Eurovision week opens in Tel Aviv, and so far, the biggest name announced as part of the festivities is Israeli actress Gal Gadot, who will appear at the May 18 Eurovision Song Contest.

“We’re hoping to have Madonna too,” said Yuval Cohen, director of Eurovision 2019, “but the official announcement hasn’t been made yet by us.”

Cohen said that negotiations are still taking place for Madonna, who is turning 60 and “loves Israel,” to sing two songs at the Eurovision Song Contest.

It’s just one of the many moving pieces for Israel’s hosting of the annual song contest, titled “Dare to Dream.”

The shows’ hosts throughout the week include Israeli presenters Lucy Ayoub and Assi Azar, while TV presenter Erez Tal and model Bar Refaeli will host the main song contest.

Other Israeli performers at the May 18 event will include mentalist Lior Suchard, former Eurovision singer Dana International, the Idan Raichel Projct, the Shalva Band, former Eurovision winner Izhar Cohen as a judge, musician Kutiman, and Netta Barzilai, who will open the main event on May 18.

The plans, stage construction and show orchestration for Eurovision 2019 have been ongoing ever since Barzilai took home the trophy for “Toy” during last year’s 2018 event.

The song contest’s major team members reported on the stage, schedule and backstage plans for the upcoming event at a Monday morning press conference in the Tel Aviv Expo, the 60-dunam (14 acre) event space hosting parts of the week-long event.

“It’s like an Olympic Village,” said Tamir Dayan, CEO of Expo Tel Aviv, which is located in a portion of what was known as Ganei Hataarucha in Tel Aviv.

Dayan said an estimated NIS 8 million (around $2.2 million) was invested in new construction and renovation, with a staff of 1,600 workers.

“This is a milestone for us,” he said.

The last time Israel hosted the Eurovision was in 1979, and in Jerusalem. The level of professionalism and showmanship has changed since then, said Zivit Davidovich, executive producer of Eurovision 2019.

“Now it’s three big shows, open rehearsals, a series of events at an unbelievable height of creativity,” she said. “We want to show Israeli pride and creativity and show that throughout Europe. We want them to see that we’re awesome.”

The physical elements of the staging include a 17-meter (55-foot) screen made up of 12 separate LED screens, explained Meytal Cohen, one of the Eurovision producers. There are also four giant moving beams onstage that can be lifted and turned, creating a variety of staging possibilities for each performance.

The event will open on May 12 with an event at the Habima Theater in central Tel Aviv, followed by days and nights of performances and events at the Euro Village in Charles Clore Park, where each night will host Israeli performers, including Ivri Lider, Mayumana, Mosh Ben Ari, and an Eat TLV area, featuring the best of Israeli food and chef experiences.

Much attention is being paid to the logistics of the event, said Eitan Schwartz of Tel Aviv Global, a municipal initiative. With 10,000 tourists expected, who will fill all of the city’s hotel rooms, the city wants to impress them with European level transportation and logistics.

There will be a cadre of volunteers located throughout the city offering pocket guides, as well as a new city website, fixed prices at the beach, buses on Shabbat so that tourists don’t have rely on cabs, regularly cleaned beaches, and many free tours.

“This is a chance of a generation,” said Schwartz.

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