Israel first joined the Eurovision Song Contest in 1973.
We were off to a good start, and after six years we got our first two Eurovision winners, one right after the other.
The first singer ever to represent us was Ilanit, with "Ey Sham".
She came in a very respectable 4th place, and we've managed to hover around the top ten until Abanibi came along:
The first time Israel won, with a knockout score of 157 points compared to the 135 points of the second place - the Israeli public didn't even see it.
The IBA didn't buy enough broadcasting time, because no one thought we'd win.
10 minutes before the final announcement, the screen went dark.
Israelis trying to catch up on the Jordanian TV found a pictures of flowers instead (for millenials, this was back when your TV had an antenna that you could find foreign channels with).
When the Jordanians realized those cute, sexy, dancing Zionists were about to win they just couldn't bear showing it to the people of Jordan, so they cut off the transmission and showed a picture of flowers instead. This was before the peace accord.
Israel's participation in the Eurovision was tainted with politics from day one.
Anyway, Izhar Cohen, our Yemeni version of John Travolta, won the contest and the people of Israel found out about it thru the radio (we hadn't invented instant messaging yet.)
I love the thought that this was originally meant to be a children's song.
It's is about a secret language that kids use to talk about things that they are too shy to say out straight, like "I love you". So they add a "B" after every vowel:
Instead of saying "Ani ohev otach", meaning "I love you", they said "Abanibi Obohebev obotabach".
Ehud Manor's partner told him this song was too good to be a children's song, and so he sent it to the song festival and the rest is history.
This entry has one more special thing about it:
Nurit Hirsh is the only woman conductor (and composer) to win the Eurovision in the history of the contest.
This beautiful universal word, "Hallelujah", with it's lovely tune, captivated the judges and the audiences around the world, and Israel won for the second time in a row.
The stage design was a first - it was dynamic, and changed the background appearance for each and every song.
It's in Hebrew but I do recommend you let google translate it for you and hopefully you will enjoy the story.
Israel didn't defend the title the following year, the only Eurovision winners ever to do that.
First, we just couldn't afford the cost of hosting a second time in a row. Then, by the time the contest went to Holland, date choices were limited. The date of the new contest fell on Yom Hazikaron - the Israeli Memorial Day, and we chose to withdraw.
The controversial choice didn't just pay off; Dana International became international for real.
She also changed forever how Israelis regard LGBT people. I wrote a whole page just for her - click here to read.
Of course, it's not the actual contest performance that stuck in the collective memory.
What we all remember is the Jean Paul Gaultier feather bolero Dana International wore for the winner's performance:
It was a twenty year gap between Hallelujah and Diva.
It would be another twenty years until the next time we got a winner, and she was just as unusual as Diva was:
Again it was a super original, strange and rather controversial choice that brought us the "Does Point".
Netta (hey that's MY NAME!) made funny chicken noises with the looper and brought something fresh and funny to a contest that is already deep into stranger things :-)
I love her, she's so cool.
Here she is, showing Prince William around Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv, the city where the 2019 Eurovision contest is going to be:
Netta Barzilai, kappara on her, become instant inspiration to artists everywhere. Her iconic look just begs to be drawn.
The Israeli Illustrators page on facebook dedicated a gallery to her; See the fabulous results here on their Pinterest board:
Till May, then!
I've collected the essential links and info for everything you need to know for the 2019 Tel Aviv Eurovision right here (click!) :-)
How Dana International and the Gaultier feather bolero made Israel a much better place >>