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In the end, Israel's 2019 Eurovision Song Contest had everything a host country could hope for : an impressive, memorable, and professional production that not only matches, but exceeds the standards of Eurovisions, a fun-filled, food-filled "Eurovillage" on the Mediterranean shore, and an appearance by the queen of pop ̵
Most importantly, after bated breath, worry and concern – the event and the festivities around terrorist attacks or missile sirens, the fruit of intensive behind-the-scenes efforts by Israeli officials. Even last minute reports of exchanges of four in Syria Saturday night did not manage to spoil the party.
If there was any clear failure in the exercise, any reason to give Israel's Eurovision effort less than a perfect score, it was the fact that the majority of the spectators in the audience – during the dress rehearsals, semi-finals, and finals – and at all of the Eurovision-related festivals across Tel Aviv were Israeli.
The throngs of fans traveling from Europe to cheer on the 41 participating countries who were supposed to crowd the streets of Tel Aviv simply never materialized
And all evidence pointed to the fact that it was not the fault of BDS, Roger Waters, or any other pro-Palestinian activists – it was a self-inflicted wound, with a government that did not subsidize massive Eurovision-linked tourism campaigns, subsidize packages, or, most importantly, underwrite the costs of the huge production, resulting in sky-high ticket prices for the show.
"We had more than 20 friends who would have come to Israel for this Eurovision if it was for the ticket prices," said Michelle Ackerman from Amsterdam, part of a group of friends waiting in line to be part of the audience of 7,500 at the Tel Aviv Expo. The friends have traveled to countless contests in various countries over the years. “Would you believe our tickets cost more than our airfare?”
Waving Dutch flags and dressed in outfits featuring support for their contestant Duncan Lawrence, who was about to see with 25 other countries in Saturday's grand final, the group of visitors from the Netherlands, like the handful of other groups visiting from abroad, were anxious to be an attraction for the majority of Israeli audience members, who streamed to an endless request for selfies alongside foreigners.
Alongside them was a group from Spain. “The Tel Aviv Eurovillage on the beach was great – spacious – and all the volunteers across the city were so nice and helpful,” said Carlos Madrano from Madrid, who traveled to see the show and for a first-time trip to Israel. “It's a great culture and most importantly, good looking man. But yes, everything is expensive – even the alcohol. "
The "Eurovillage," the expansive stage on the Charles Clore beach with a massive internship that hosted music performances and screened the broadcasts live before the crowds, adjacent to Tel Aviv's annual food festival, was equally dominated by Israelis.
While Israel's successful Eurovision may not benefit from the mouth of the thousands of returning tourists, its story will be counted by the 1,200 journalists who came and the colorful vignettes on the broadcast viewed by 200 million people, which showed off Israel's most flattering side, did their part to counter the images that the world is more accustomed to associating with Israel – war, strife and blood.
Local pride in the show was carefully woven into the show in a way that was clear, but underlined enough not to alienate the international audience. The final opened with a video featuring 2018 winner Netta Barzilai piloting a plane that circled the country, across fields, excited youth in uniforms and the Old City of Jerusalem, counting the control tower, "We have 26 Eurovision finalists on board, heading your way. "
Barzilai then "landed" the massive plane on a stage decked in blue and white, accompanied by dancing flight attendants, and greeted the crowd as the show was opened with a medley of Israel's greatest Eurovision hits.
Evoking this year's Eurovision theme “Dare to Dream,” host Erez Tal stated at the opening of the show that Israel is “a country of people from all over the world who dared to dream and follow that dream to make it come true , ”Alongside supermodel Bar Refaeli, Arab journalist Lucy Ayoub (who greeted the audience in Arabic), and openly gay television host Assi Azar After the 26 competitors sang their songs, a performance by the Idan Raichel Project, a multi-racial, multicultural "World music" group, who performed in Hebrew and Amharic, the only song on the show in Israel's language, gave the international extravaganza a dose of local flavor. Tel Aviv starring Israel's biggest star in Hollywood, Gal Gadot.
In the end, it was an undeniable public relations triumph.
Even the Icelandic competitor, Hatari, whom organizers feared would make some kind of on-stage protest, merely displayed in a Palestinian banner during the voting portion of the contest at the very end.
The thousands of visitors from overseas who did come, and the millions of viewers, were shown at the side of Israel the organizers and the government wanted them to see – colorful, diverse, fun-loving – and, unlike the satirical and controversial promotional video that made the rounds of social media before the contest, had no mention of occupation, conflict, war, or strife.
All of that could wait until the lights of the grand final went down.