Kobi Marimi was named the winner of Israel’s Rising Star reality singing competition Tuesday evening and will represent the Jewish state at the Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv this May.
Marimi handily defeated the three other finalists, Katria Pouch, Rotem Shefi (Shefita) and Maya Buskila, who came in second, third and fourth places respectively in a joint vote decided by the public and a panel of judges.
Marimi will be hoping to lead Israel to a second successive victory after last year’s win by Netta Barzilai and her song “Toy,” which brought the competition back to Israel for this year’s final to be held on May 18.
Throughout the reality show process of selecting Israel’s entrant, Marimi, a 27-year-old from Ramat Gan, was a favorite of the judges, although not always of the public. When he was voted off in the quarter-final stage, he was brought back with a “life saver.”
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Posted by הכוכב הבא on Wednesday, 13 February 2019
He powered through the final with a series of impressive covers of hits like Bon Jovi’s “Always” and The Beatles’ “Let it be.”
A professional committee from the Kan public broadcaster, which is hosting the event, will choose a song for him to perform in the next two weeks.
Kan congratulated Marimi and said in a statement that they were sure he would successfully “fill the shoes of Netta Barzilai.”
“We are working day and night to make the next Eurovision the most spectacular event ever put on in Israel and in the history of the competition and we have no doubt that Kobi will bring us the double, so that immediately after the end of the final on May 18, we can start working on Eurovision for the following year,” Kan said.
Tel Aviv, which was chosen as the host city, also congratulated Merimi, lighting up city hall with his name.
— Tel Aviv (@TelAviv) February 12, 2019
While Marimi was a strong contender, much of the public focus in the run up had been on Rotem Shefi, who came in third.
Known as Shefita, she covered a selection of alternative rock classics (Nirvana’s “Lithium,” Aerosmith’s “Pink,” “Karma Police” from Radiohead, for example), in Hebrew with an Arabic accent.
But Shefita, or Shefi, is 100 percent Jewish, born and raised in the northern city of Carmiel and her style gave rise to criticism, with many accusing her of appropriating Arab culture and comparing it to the blackface once used by white comedians in the US channeling African-American characters.