Toy in Jerusalem

With organisers warning fans not to book flights to Jerusalem, and thinly veiled warnings to those hoping to make political capital from the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest, uncertainty remains around the next host city.

Two weeks ago, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) took the unusual step of warning fans off booking tickets. It happened after several unofficial tourist sites published what they claimed to be a confirmed date for the final. Organisers made it clear nothing was yet agreed.

Heute in Jerusalem

When Netta picked up her trophy in Lisbon, she proclaimed 'Next year in Jerusalem' - the last words of the traditional Seder. Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed Israeli intentions. In the days that followed, the mayor of Tel Aviv ruled out hosting. The only other cities (not really) in the running are Petah Tikva, Haifa and Beersheba - none of which have a suitable venue.

That leaves the Pais Arena in Jerusalem as the preferred venue - it's big enough, and unlike the (much larger) Teddy Stadium, it already has a roof. But it's also home to the Hapoel Jerusalem Basketball Club. Their manager has stated that his team is not willing to move out of its home arena to make way for the Eurovision Song Contest 2019.

Whilst Tel Aviv is seen as a party town, Jerusalem is divided. Across Israel - though more strictly in Jerusalem - many public services (including transport) shut down for Shabbat (the holy sabbath). It's observed from sunset on Friday until Saturday evening - just after 8pm local time (2 hours ahead of transmission). Yaakov Litzman, leader of the ultra-Orthodox party United Torah Judaism drafted a letter to the Ministers of Tourism, Communications, and Culture and Sports. In it, he demands that the Contest should not violate strict religious laws.

This could cause problems for early rehearsals as well as for the jury and family final shows. And with security high, getting everyone transported from hotels, in place, watered, fed and ready with less than two hours to go live on Saturday evening feels tight. Not to mention confiscating step ladders and golf balls.

Political bias

Minister of Sports and Culture Miri Regev and Minister of Communications Ayoub Kara joined forces to establish a joint committee, overseeing initial preparations. Kara went a step further, and suggested Arab states should enter a song. Seemingly unaware of having no say over who takes part, he invited Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Tunisia. Of these, only Tunisia would be eligible under EBU rules. They pulled out years back in protest at Israeli involvement. Awks.

This led to tetchy statements from Frank-Dieter Freiling - Chair of the Eurovision Reference Group. Recent closed-door meetings with Israeli broadcaster IPBC. Headlines in The Times of Israel suggested the EBU wanted a rethink. Jerusalem was in doubt. Next month representatives of IPBC will travel to Geneva to discuss the matter further.

Contest rules state that the winning country hosts the following year’s contest but the winning broadcaster can waive this right, as happened when Israel won for the second time in two years in 1979. At the time it came down to staging costs, but an uncertain political climate and high security demands might come into play.

With Tel Aviv seemingly not interested and no other viable host city, whispers began that the show might move country.

Boycotts

The EBU has made it clear that they won't tolerate their Contest being used to further a political message. They want to be sure that all potential participating broadcasters feel able to send a song.

As it stands, no broadcaster will make any decision until August. Despite this, five countries have seen calls to boycott if the contest takes place as planned. A fast growing petition has forced Icelandic TV to take seriously a demand to skip a year. Fringe political figures have made similar calls in the UK, Ireland, Sweden and Australia.

Jon Ola Sand issued a short statement to eurovision.de reiterating the basic conditions for hosting the Contest - above all the safety of all those attending.

On the (not completely) bright side

Sources suggest broadcaster Kan offered Gal Gadot the hosting job - regardless of where the Contest takes place next year. The Wonder Woman actress has already turned it down - she's too busy.

Keep watching this space - more news as we get it.

5 COMMENTS

  1. The EBU are a non political organisation, in that they don’t really care about politics. The contest is a commercial venture. If they can host the contest safely to the same timetable they always do, and provided the have no less than 35 entries, it will go ahead in Israel. The Pais Arena Jerusalem is big enough, given that fewer fans will travel.
    The major issue that will prevent the contest taking place in Jerusalem or even Israel is if the sabbath has to be strictly observed. If the jury show doesn’t happen on Friday night ( it can’t happen on Friday afternoon, that’s too soon after the second semi final), the final won’t be on Saturday night. Will the EBU be willing to move the final to Sunday night to placate the religious community? Answers on a postcard!

    • Well considering Shabat ends before 2200 on a Saturday of *course* they won’t move it. They didn’t move it in 1979 or 1999 did they?!

      • For the record, on the 25th May 2019 – Shabat ends at 8.19PM Jerusalem time – way before the contest.

  2. They had the same problem with the Shabat in 1999 and at the end they came up with a last minute solution. Can’t remember how or what they did.

    They will need to solve this beforehand and not waiting for the last minute.

Comments are closed.