Israelis took to the streets and social media early Sunday to celebrate the country’s win in the Eurovision Song Contest, praising singer Netta Barzilai as “Israel’s best ambassador’ and excitedly awaiting the country’s hosting duties for next year.
In cities around the country, people yelled and hollered when the win was announced, ignoring the 1:30 a.m. time on the clock to revel in the rare Israeli victory on the world stage.
In Tel Aviv, thousands of young people took to the streets after the victory, gathering in Rabin Square for a celebration at a site that normally hosts political rallies leaden with the reality of the country.
At 3 a.m. thousands were still there, raucously waving Israeli flags and partying in the streets. Some streets were closed by the celebrations, Israel Kan TV broadcaster reported.
Electronic signs in the city also changed to mark Barzilai’s victory at the song contest, the first win for Israel at Eurovision since 1998, following years of middling results.
החגיגות לכבוד נטע נמשכות לתוך הלילה – נתראה בשנה הבאה בישראל! pic.twitter.com/UEHjhIuNwJ
— גלצ (@GLZRadio) May 12, 2018
In Jerusalem’s chic Mahane Yehuda market, hundreds also danced and cheered to celebrate Barzilai’s win.
החברים במחניודה חוגגים את המתנה שקיבלו לכבוד יום ירושלים pic.twitter.com/wC1UteOVgD
— מיכל צ׳ין | Michal Chinn (@michal_chinn) May 12, 2018
Hours earlier, Barzilai cluck and bucked her way through “Toy,” a catchy ditty that also addresses women’s empowerment and had been the bookmakers’ favorite to win for weeks before the contest in Portugal, last year’s winner.
Despite the late hour (and the fact that Sunday is a workday in Israel) several politicians and public figures sent their congratulations to Barzilai on social media.
Actress Gal Gadot, whose Wonder Woman character is referenced in Barzilai’s song, feted Barzilai on Instagram.
“You represent the real wonder in women. So much Truth, confidence and talent,” she wrote.
Meretz head Tamar Zandberg posted a picture of her among the revelers at Rabin Square.
אלפים בככר, איזו גאווה. נטע המדהימה, שנה הבאה בירושלים ????????
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Barzilai on the phone shortly after the win, telling her “You are wonderful. You are lovely… You are the best ambassador for Israel.”
“We’re proud of you. We are waiting for everyone next year in Jerusalem,” President Reuven Rivlin wrote on Twitter.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan tweeted a cartoon of Barzilai showing up a supporter of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement. BDS campaigners had urged the Eurovision participants not to vote for Israel’s entry.
I love my country pic.twitter.com/Yx5NWEy60j
— Ambassador Gilad Erdan גלעד ארדן (@giladerdan1) May 13, 2018
Israel’s win means it gets the right to host the contest next year, for the fourth time in its history. Previous contests have been held in Jerusalem, though political tensions and security concerns surrounding the city could overshadow the contest.
The capital earlier this month hosted a stage of the Giro d’Italia bike race, seen as a major coup for Israel, but organizers clashed with Israeli politicians over wording used to describe the city — united according to Israel, but still divided according to the international community, which has refused to recognize Israel’s annexation of the eastern half of the city.
Most international music acts visiting Israel have opted for cultural capital Tel Aviv over the years, with major shows in Jerusalem a rarity.
The city sent out a tweet congratulating Barzilai and its assumed hosting duties, with a picture of its Pais Arena, the most likely venue for the contest.
— עיריית ירושלים (@Jlm_city) May 12, 2018
Culture Minister Miri Regev, whose attempts to convince a skeptical creative community around the world of Israel’s claims to Jerusalem have at times been met with derision, called the win a “large present for Israel, celebrating 70 years of independence, and to Jerusalem, celebrating 51 years since it was liberated and united.”
Sunday marks Jerusalem Day, the anniversary of the eastern half of the city’s capture from Jordanian forces in 1967, though the holiday is mostly associated with the right wing. On Monday, the US is set to become the first country to move its embassy there, also seen as a milestone for the city.