The real winners of 2nd Eurovision semifinal? Shalva Band wows the world
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'Heart-warming response is more important than Eurovision'

The real winners of 2nd Eurovision semifinal? Shalva Band wows the world

Not a dry eye in the house after Israeli band made up of musicians with disabilities performs in Tel Aviv; group founder says they’ve already received invites to play in Europe

The Shalva Band performs at the second Eurovision 2019 semifinal in Tel Aviv on May 16, 2019 (YouTube screenshot)
The Shalva Band performs at the second Eurovision 2019 semifinal in Tel Aviv on May 16, 2019 (YouTube screenshot)

An emotional performance by the Shalva Band at Thursday’s Eurovision second semifinal earned widespread praise from viewers in both Israel and abroad, who hailed the band for its message of inclusivity and acceptance.

Shalva Band, which dropped its widely supported bid to represent Israel at the Eurovision contest in order to avoid performing on the Sabbath, took to the stage Thursday as guest artists, performing the song “A Million Dreams.”

Following the performance, thousands of Eurovision fans took to Twitter to praise the band, whose members are made up of musicians with disabilities.

The Eurovision organization called the band inspirational for “inspiring us to think differently about challenges and acceptance,” while many viewers at home said the performance brought them to tears.

(Note: This official Eurovision video may not play in the US)

The group received a long standing ovation at the end of their act, and host Bar Refaeli appeared to be holding back tears as she remarked on their performance.

The Shalva Band were finalists on the reality TV show “Rising Star,” that was to determine Israel’s entry for the annual song contest taking place this week in Tel Aviv, but the group quit the show over the prospect of being forced to break the Jewish day of rest if selected as the winner.

The Shalva Band performs during a rehearsal for their guest appearance at the second semifinal of the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv, May 15, 2019 (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Eurovision contestants are required to perform onstage in the general rehearsal, which will be held on Friday evening — 24 hours before the tournament’s final.

Israel had unsuccessfully tried to persuade the European Broadcasting Union to bend the rules to allow the band to compete without performing on Shabbat, but the request was turned down.

On Friday, the band’s artistic director, Shai Ben Shushan told Army Radio that despite forgoing participation in the song contest, they had received numerous invitations to play shows abroad in the wake of Thursday’s performance.

“We were invited to play shows in Europe,” he said in an interview. But Ben Shushan stressed that if the band decided to go on tour, they would not abandon their goal of helping make life accessible to disabled Israelis.

“The heart-warming response from the public is so much more important to us than Eurovision,” he said.

The Shalva Band performs during the main rehearsal of the 71st anniversary Independence Day ceremony, held at Mount Herzl, Jerusalem, on April 6, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
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