Israel picks Eden Alene, 19, as its 2020 Eurovision representative
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Israel picks Eden Alene, 19, as its 2020 Eurovision representative

Jerusalem native is first Ethiopian-Israeli to be sent to international song contest after winning ‘The Next Star’ reality show

Eden Alene, Israel's 2020 Eurovision representative and winner of the reality show "The Next Star" during the final in Neve Ilan studio near Jerusalem on February 4, 2020. (Shlomi Cohen/Flash90)
Eden Alene, Israel's 2020 Eurovision representative and winner of the reality show "The Next Star" during the final in Neve Ilan studio near Jerusalem on February 4, 2020. (Shlomi Cohen/Flash90)

Israel on Tuesday chose its representative for the 2020 Eurovision Song Contest: Eden Alene.

Alene, who won the reality show “The Next Star” that determines the representative, will be the first singer of Ethiopian origin to represent Israel in the annual international extravaganza.

With her powerful voice and mix of influences, Eden — whose final performance was of Beyonce’s “Halo” — will bring a fresh and contemporary combination of sounds and styles to this year’s Eurovision in Rotterdam.

Despite her young age at 19, Alene was actually the oldest of the four teenager finalists of the show, broadcast on Channel 12. The others were 16-year-old Ellalee Lahav, 17-year-old Gaya Shaki and 17-year-old Orr Amrami Brockman.

“It is an insane honor to represent my country,” she said after her win was announced. “It is amazing that an Ethiopian is doing it for the first time.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulated Alene on Twitter, writing: “Eden, you are a champion! We trust you to bring Eurovision back home. Good luck!”

Born and raised in Jerusalem, Alene moved this year with her mother to the city of Kiryat Gat. Her parents divorced when she was four, and she has had no contact with her father since. She studied ballet for ten years before moving from a religious school to a secular one and studying theater and taking voice lessons.

She also sang for two years with the YMCA Jerusalem Youth Choir, a mixed choir of Jewish and Arab teens.

Alene, who currently is an IDF soldier, has considerable experience in the business, having won the country’s X-Factor reality show in 2018 when she was 17 years old.

She has since released several singles, including a cover of Eurovision’s 1976 winner “Save Your Kisses For Me” by Brotherhood of Man. Her 2019 song “When It Comes To You” was recorded in Los Angeles with US producer Julian Bunetta.

Alene sang the Hebrew-language version of the theme song of Warner Bros. 2018 film “Smallfoot,” and in 2019 took part in the Israeli version of the musical “Little Shop of Horrors.”

She was announced as the winner Tuesday after a combination of votes by the public and by several panels of judges.

A special broadcast in the coming weeks will select the song Alene will sing at the Eurovision Song Contest. The live show on the Kan public broadcaster will feature four potential songs that will again be voted on by viewers and professional judges.

“The Next Star” has for seven years been the format for selecting Israel’s Eurovision representative, with all seven then reaching the finals and 2018’s representative Netta Barzilai winning the contest.

Israel’s Netta Barzilai celebrates after winning the Eurovision Song Contest in Lisbon, Portugal, May 12, 2018. (AP Photo/Armando Franca)

However, next year the format will change, with the representative being selected via a new show which will be broadcast on Kan. Details of that show are still unknown.

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