The live finale of Kochav Haba, the talent show used as Israel’s national selection platform to choose who will represent the country in the yearly Eurovision Song Contest, finished earlier Tuesday evening and resulted in a participant being chosen to hit the stage in Lisbon, Portugal this May. For the first time in four years, a female will attempt to secure the win in the world’s most popular song competition.
As revealed by The Jerusalem Post, 24-year-old Netta Barzilai won this year’s edition of Kochav Haba, which translates into “The Next Star,” with fan favorite Jonathan Mergui coming in second and fellow female Riki Ben-Ari third. Popular singer Chen Aharoni placed fourth, much to the surprise of many Israeli voters and the Eurovision community as a whole.
Eurovision fans are not entirely sure that Barzilai will do well in this year’s competition; in fact, many believe that 2018 will mark the first time in four years that Israel does not advance to the final. This could potentially send the country back into a non-qualification streak, of which they were trapped in from 2011 to 2015, when 16-year-old Nadav Guedj not only made it through his semi-final but ended up placing ninth in the grand final. This was Israel’s best result since 2008 and also the first time in Eurovision Song Contest history that this nation sent an entry which was completely in English.
Guedj’s reason for not abiding by the 50/50 rule (that the Israeli song submitted for the competition must be at least half in Hebrew) was that doing so would make the yearly Eurovision slogan’s point somewhat moot, as the notion of “Come Together” meant not pointing out such differences as language barriers and the like. Ever since then, Israel’s participants have performed solely in English; in 2016, Hovi Star sang the heart-wrenching ballad Made of Stars and 2017 saw Imri hit the stage with the dance anthem I Feel Alive.
Israel has competed in the Eurovision Song Contest a total of 40 times since the nation’s debut in 1973, and has actually won the competition on three occasions; 1978, 1979, and 1998. These winners were Izhar Cohen & the Alphabeta, Gali Atari & Milk and Honey, and Dana International. Izhar Cohen participated again in 1985, placing fifth, and Dana International tried her hand once more in 2011 but did not end up qualifying. The country’s worst result was in 2007 when band Teapacks placed 24th in their semi-final with the controversial entry Push The Button, a politically charged song surrounding Iran and nuclear war.