Why is Israel in Eurovision?

Why is Israel in the Eurovision Song Contest - Pinterest Pin

I’m a massive fan of the Eurovision Song Contest. So much so that I talk about it most of the time. I’ll make references to songs that nobody else understand. I also find ways of bringing the Eurovision Song Contest into any conversation. As a consequence, I get asked lots of questions about Eurovision. Up until 2015, one of the questions I was asked most often was….”Why is Israel in the Eurovision Song Contest?”

Israeli flag fluttering in the wind

As I approached Eurovision 2019 and told people I was travelling to Israel to see the Eurovision Song Contest, the question became more and more frequent. Why is Israel in Eurovision? Surely it’s about countries from Europe?

So to save me answering the question again in the future, I decided to write a post to answer most of the frequently asked questions.

If you’re looking for travel guides to Israel, you can read my Israel travel posts here. If you want to know why Israel enters Eurovision, read on!

Israel and the Eurovision Song Contest

Israel first entered the Eurovision Song Contest in 1973 and has since become one of the most successful countries in the contest. Israel has won the contest 4 times, most recently in 2018. It is also one of only four countries to have won the contest two years running.

Israel has put it’s stamp on the Eurovision Song Contest in many other ways, providing some of the contest’s most memorable moments.

Here are some of my favourites!

Dana International stormed to victory in 1998 becoming the first transgendered winner of the contest. She has since become a Eurovision icon, inspiring the name of this travel blog.

Nadav Guedj invited Europe to Tel Aviv in 2015 with his song, Golden Boy. He finished a respectable 9th in the contest.

Netta brought ‘Me Too’ style empowerment to the contest in 2018, romping to victory and taking the contest to Tel Aviv for the first time in 2019.

So why is Israel in Eurovision?

It’s all about the European Broadcasting Union!

To enter the Eurovision Song Contest, a broadcasting channel needs to be a member of the European Broadcasting Union or EBU. The EBU organise the Eurovision Song Contest alongside the broadcaster from host nation.

A map of Europe which doesn't include Israel

To join the EBU, a broadcaster must be within the European Broadcasting Area which is defined by the ITU. The current definition states that the eastern border of the European Broadcasting Area is at 40° longitude and the southern border is at 30° latitude.

This means that there are many nations in the European Broadcasting Area which are not part of Europe. These include; Algeria, Jordan, Libya, Israel, Azerbaijan, Jordan, Armenia, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and more.

Broadcasters from these nations are therefore eligible to join the EBU and enter the Eurovision Song Contest. At present there are broadcasters from 56 of these nations in the EBU, of which around 40 take part in Eurovision.

Why don’t these other countries enter the contest?

There are many reasons why certain countries don’t enter the Eurovision Song Contest. Financial concerns are often cited as a barrier to entering the contest.

Some of these nations have entered in the past but decide to withdraw. Turkey, Slovakia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Montenegro and Hungary have all withdrawn in recent years.

Other members of the EBU have never entered the contest. Countries such as Egypt and Lebanon could technically enter but chose not to so.

Cultural issues have also been seen as a barrier to entry.

It’s widely rumoured that Turkey’s boycott of the contest, which began in 2012, was a protest against the inclusion of LGBT performers in the show. The Turkish broadcaster would have to transmit these entries to participate.

Similar rumours surrounded Hungary’s withdrawal is 2019 amidst the rise of anti-LGBT rhetoric in the country.

Israel’s position in the contest is also known as a point of contention, especially for Muslim countries. Many of the nations on the periphery of the EBA do not recognise Israel as a sovereign state.

One of the rules of Eurovision is that the contest must be broadcast in it’s entirety. Therefore entering the contest alongside Israel would mean the broadcaster would have to televise the Israeli entry and promote Israeli culture by doing so. This would be unacceptable for many Islamic broadcasters.

Interestingly, Morocco have only entered the contest on one occasion. This was during a year when Israel had withdrawn from the contest.

So although many of these countries are eligible to enter the contest, many of them chose not to do so.

A view of the Dome in Jerusalem viewed through a barbed wire fence.

So that’s why Israel are in the Eurovision Song Contest!

I hope that has answered the question and cleared any confusion!

Not the most simple of explanations; I’ll admit, but when has the Eurovision Song Contest ever been simple? It’s the whacky complexity that makes it so compelling.

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You can see my other posts from Israel here:

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