Four Israeli cities are in the running to host the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest. In the coming weeks, each will submit details of their bid to both state broadcaster IPBC and the European Broadcasting Union (EBU). An announcement on host city, venue and dates is expected in August or September.
Israel Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was forced to step in to end increasingly heated exchanges between government ministers. A telephone meeting on Friday saw Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev sidelined, after she recommended the contest be sent elsewhere if there was pressure to not use Jerusalem. Netanyahu issued a statement confirming that Eurovision hosting will be agreed between broadcaster KAN and the EBU alone. The government will no longer interfere.
For their part, the EBU insists that at least two cities be proposed as possible hosts. This weekend, news emerged that as well as Jerusalem, bids will arrive from Tel Aviv, Haifa and Eilat. Despite early interest, the city of Petah Tikva is no longer shortlisted.
Challenges to meet
Each potential host city brings its own challenges, and to some extent will mean negotiation with the EBU around the criteria for a host city: an enclosed stadium with capacity for around 10,000 ticket holders, 3,000 hotel rooms, a nearby Tier 1 or 2 international airport, 24/7 public transport giving access to the arena (or suitable alternatives through private means). Security for all taking part is a given.
Jerusalem has so far been seen as the preferred choice of the Israeli government. It has. however attracted negative reactions with some broadcasters under pressure to boycott the 2019 Contest if it takes place in the city. Whilst all of Israel marks Shabbat, meaning things like public transport are suspended from sunset on Friday until mid evening on Saturday, it is more strictly observed in Jerusalem than in other cities. There have been calls from ultra-Orthodox leaders and some ministers to forbid any shows or rehearsals during Shabbat. The Chairman of the EBU’s Eurovision Reference Group, Frank-Dieter Freiling, noted that he was 'well aware' of tensions.
The mayor of Tel Aviv, Ron Huldai had initially been quick to dismiss the city as a potential host after Netta won the 2018 Contest. He later back-pedalled, insisting he was merely leaving any decision to the government, later changing his tune completely to say he would support a bid if Jerusalem was judged unsuitable. Tel Aviv is widely seen as a 'party city' and markets itself as a 'gay holiday destination'. The Menora Mivtachim Arena is thought to be a likely venue.
Haifa, though having the (currently open) Sammy Ofer Stadium, might struggle with the access requirement - given it lies 90 minutes by road from Ben Gurion airport. Few international airlines operate into the local airport and the city would need to build additional hotel rooms.
The coastal resort of Eilat is well-served by flights, has plenty of hotel space, but lacks a suitable covered venue at this stage.