Israel's Netta wins Eurovision 2018. (AP/Armando Franca) (AP/Armando Franca)
Netta Barzilai

Israel’s unconventional Netta Barzilai, who won the Eurovision Song Contest with her hit “Toy,” declared, “I love my country. Next time in Jerusalem!” The timing was perfect – it was Jerusalem Day, and Israelis were already celebrating the 51st anniversary of the reunification of the city.

By: AP and United with Israel Staff

Israel’s unconventional Netta Barzilai won this year’s Eurovision Song Contest with a catchy techno dance tune about women’s empowerment.

The timing could not have been better. Israelis were already celebrating Yom Yerushalayim – Jerusalem Day, the 51st anniversary of the reunification of the city during the 1967 Six Day War – when the win was announced at 2 a.m. Sunday. Cheering and dancing broke out in the streets of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, two cities that never sleep.

The 25-year-old beat out competition from 42 other countries’ performers Saturday to claim the music extravaganza’s annual crown at the Grand Final with her song “Toy.”

There was a strong field of contestants at this year’s event in Lisbon, Portugal, which was watched by an estimated 200 million people. The votes coming in live from the capitals of participating countries delivered a tense finale, with Israel gripped in a tight, five-way race with Cyprus, Austria, Sweden and Germany.

Barzilai eventually racked up 529 points, compared with 436 for runner-up Cyprus with “Fuego” by Eleni Foureira, and 342 for third-place Austria with Cesar Sampson’s “Nobody But You.”

Barzilai, with her Asian-themed show in red and yellow and her dancers doing funky chicken moves, was jubilant.

“I’m happy people chose something different. It’s refreshing,” she said. “I believe authenticity (shows) through.”

Her win — Israel’s fourth and first since 1998 — means her country hosts next year’s Eurovision Song Contest.

‘Next time in Jerusalem!’

“Next time in Jerusalem!” Barzilai shouted to the audience as she picked up her award. “I love my country…There is nothing like an Israeli party. You will find out next year.”

Speaking to Israel Radio after he victory, she said she looked forward to the world seeing “the Israeli carnival” when Jerusalem hosts the contest.

People will see “how wonderful we are. What a vibe we have. Best people… the best place in the world,” she said.

The international contest began as a competition between European countries, but its huge popularity has led to the inclusion of Israel and Australia among the performers.

Barzilai, known more usually as Netta, has a witty and endearing personality. Before the Grand Final, her song had already racked up more than 20 million views on Eurovision’s YouTube channel.

In “Toy,” Netta makes funny noises, including a clucking sound like a chicken and barely decipherable words, and uses a looping machine and synthesizer.

The lyrics say, “I’m not your toy, You stupid boy, I’ll take you down.”

Portugal came last, with 39 points.

Thousands of Israelis took to the streets Saturday night in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv to celebrates the country’s victory.

The event was organized by the European Broadcasting Union, an alliance of public service broadcasters. In each participating country, a jury and viewers award between one and a maximum 12 points to their favorite songs. Those votes are combined to give each country a single score.

BDS Failure

Netta’s decisive victory was achieved despite a BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) campaign to have Netta fail. Anti-Israel activists had called on European residents to boycott the Israeli song and award it zero points.

The campaign’s Facebook page, titled “Eurovision boycott of Israel – ZERO points to the song of Israeli Apartheid,” made the outrageous claim that Barzilai, who served in the Israeli navy’s choir in 2014, sang to soldiers who later participated in a nonexistent “massacre” of Gazan children during Operation Protective Edge.

The campaign also called on the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) to expel the Israeli Public Broadcasting Corporation, which they allege is “deeply complicit in Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people.”

The campaign gained a mere few hundred supporters, making its effect negligible.

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