The Eurovision Song Contest will be held in Tel Aviv next year, organisers have announced.
The Israeli government initially insisted on holding the competition in Jerusalem but following a backlash over the US recognition of Jerusalem as its capital and a fear of boycotts, it dropped the demand.
A Eurovision spokesman said they chose Tel Aviv, Israel’s cultural and commercial capital, because of its “creative and compelling bid”.
Israel won the Eurovision this year with a flashy pop tune called Toy by Netta Barzilai, who dazzled viewers with her feminist lyrics, unconventional appearance and signature chicken dance.
Her victory earned Israel the right to host next year’s contest.
“Eurovision is a perfect fit for our city, which has been internationally acclaimed for its vibrant energy, creative spirit, its lively cultural scene and its celebration of freedom,” said Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai. “We are looking forward to host a joyful and nonstop event in the spirit of Tel Aviv.”
In Europe, capital cities have usually played host to the competition but the city Israel considers its capital is not recognised as such by most of the international community.
Hosting the competition in Jerusalem could have presented a predicament for the public broadcasters that make up the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), sparking criticism that they would be taking sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The so-called BDS group – for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions – has called on the EBU, the contest’s sponsor, to boycott the Eurovision contest in Israel altogether.
Israel captured east Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed the area in a move that is not internationally recognised. Israel considers the entire city to be its capital while the Palestinians seek east Jerusalem as the capital of a future state.
Tel Aviv, which is hosting the event for the first time, says it expects around 20,000 tourists to visit the city.
The Eurovision semi-finals will be held in Tel Aviv on May 14 and 16 followed by the grand final on May 18.
Pic by Thomas Hanses