“I don’t understand why they didn’t congratulate us for our win yesterday”, I told my friend, Inbar, last Sunday after we left Home Depot.
This week was a very special week for a lot of Israelis worldwide.
I guess most part of the world is not familiar with the Eurovision song contest.
On Saturday, when we were watching it, we explained to our local friends that it is like Miss Universe to the Latins and Super Bowl to the Americans.
Since its establishment, the state of Israel has been struggling with her geographic Identity and acceptance in the world. This struggle led us to want to be the best in every aspect of our lives, and we are a very successful country.
However, we are still craving for this acceptance so we can become a part of the European inner circle.
This is where Eurovision song contest comes into play.
It was in 1978, when Israel was 30 years old, that we won, for the first time, the Eurovision contest. I wasn’t born yet, but I grew up to know that 1978 was a huge year for the state of Israel with this win.
My parents used to tell me, with a lot of pride, how Eurovision 1979 (when we won the second time in a row) was the most successful one in the history of all Eurovision contests ever.
Since then, after we realized we can actually win, it became a huge part of our culture in Israel.
Every famous singer in Israel wanted to be the one representing Israel.
We used to have pre-Eurovision contest in Israel. Whoever goes to represent us becomes a national topic.
Unfortunately, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict became Israel’s image in the world, especially in Europe, and voting for Israel became a political statement supporting Israel actions (for better or worse).
Anti-Semitism and the pro-Palestinian argument became Israel’s explanation for not winning, but we kept trying.
I remember it like it was yesterday. We were hugging one another, crying, and screaming out loud with joy.
We were so proud. It was then that I understood my parents and their stories about 1978.
Last Saturday, I was lucky to have this experience all over again.
To be honest, when I heard the Israeli song, Toy, for the first time, I didn’t get it. I was very skeptic about winning.
Maybe it was my defense mechanism not to be disappointed.
We gathered few Israelis (and locals) to watch it.
“I don’t like the song, but Israel wins every 20 years, so here we are in 2018,” I told my friends.
Once I heard Austria’s song, I told my friends that they are going to win. Unfortunately, I was right. The judges gave Austria the win.
Luckily, since the last time I watched the Eurovision, the rules have changed, and the judge’s votes were only 50%. The other 50% goes to the people in Europe.
Apparently, people in Europe loved Neta Barzilai and the song, so she won and declared “I love my country, next time in Jerusalem”, which made a lot of people feel uncomfortable.
Let’s be clear about something; Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.
I know it in my heart, every kid in Israel knows it.
For us, Israelis, it is very clear that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, and we don’t need to get permission. It is the world that feels uncomfortable with that, together with their hidden agendas and hypocrisy.
When Neta Barzilai announced “next time in Jerusalem”, it was because she won the Eurovision, and the winner gets to bring the song contest to his or her capital, there is no political statement here, whatsoever. Just a fact.
After crying, hugging, screaming, and watching videos from Israel with celebration, we danced to the song a few more times. I began to think about how tragic Israel story is.
For us, winning the Eurovision is an approval, a hug of acceptance, and a chance to show the world how big we can celebrate.
I guess we, like other people, want to love and be loved in return.
See you next year in Jerusalem, Israel for Eurovision 2019.
“…You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one..”