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Shalva band

Popular Israeli singer Omer Adam had already turned down an offer to perform at the contest. He, too, objected to being forced into rehearsals during the Jewish sabbath.

By Aryeh Savir, TPS
United with Israel contributed to this story.

The Shalva Band, comprised of young adults with various special needs, was a favorite to become Israel’s candidate at the 2019 Eurovision contest. However, the band has quit the competition because it would entail desecration of the Jewish sabbath.

The Shalva Band was competing in Israel’s HaKochav HaBah (The Next Star) televised song contest to become Israel’s candidate at the 2019 Eurovision contest and had already made it to the final stages.

The Reference Group of the Eurovision Song Contest abides by a strict rule that requires all participants to take part in live dress rehearsals, which are held over the weekend. The band offered to pre-record their performance but the request was denied.

Some band members are religious Jews whose principles preclude them from performing on the Sabbath.

Minister of Culture Miri Regev intervened on behalf of the band, writing the contest organizers that the result of abiding by the strict rules “is the complete opposite of the lofty, humane and inclusive democratic spirit, which has made the Eurovision Song Contest such a powerful cultural phenomenon worldwide.”

She “strongly” urged the body, “true to the spirit we all believe in, to reconsider an exception to your rule and to enable the Shalva Band, if it wins the local contest, to participate according to their freedom of conscience and without violating their most sacred religious practices,” but to no avail.

Renowned Israeli musician Idan Raichel lauded the band for abiding by their principles. “It is admirable that they are yielding a one time shot at something so important for the sake of their values,” he told IDF Radio on Wednesday.

The Shalva Band was established as part of the Israel Association for the Care and Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities, a non-profit organization for children with special needs.

The band members are Shay, the band’s director, Tal who plays percussion and has Down Syndrome; Joseph, a drum player and singer who has Williams syndrom;, Naftali, the percussionist who contends with PDD; and keyboard player Guy and singers Dina and Anael, who are blind.

Popular Israeli singer Omer Adam had already turned down an offer to perform as part of the entertainment at the contest because he, too, objected to being forced into preparations that are set during Shabbat.

Eurovision 2019 will take place in Tel Aviv in May. Israel earned the right to host this year’s Eurovision Song Contest as a result of winning last year’s competition with Netta Barzilai’s “Toy,” a song that celebrates equal rights.

The last time Israel hosted the competition was in Jerusalem in 1999.

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