With the victory of Netta Barzilai at the Eurovision Song Contest 2018, the contest will set up its camps in Israel next year. What do we already know about Eurovision 2019? Where will it be held? When will it take place? And who will take part?
Eurovision 2019 probably takes place in Jerusalem
After Israel’s victory in Lisbon, both winner Netta Barzilai herself and the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated that the 2019 contest would be held in Jerusalem. However, this is yet to be confirmed by the Israeli Public Broadcasting Corporation (IPBC), which will be the host broadcaster in 2019, and the European Broadcasting Union (EBU).
The mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, mentioned Jerusalem Arena and Teddy Stadium as possible venues to host the event, although the Teddy Stadium should have a (temporary) roof to be able to host the contest, increasing the severe costs for hosting Eurovision. The municipality of Jerusalem has also confirmed that the contest would not be held at the International Convention Centre. ICC hosted the Eurovision Song Contest 1979 and 1999. In 2019 the contest will definitely move to another facility due to the ICC’s insufficient capacity.
Another possible location was the Menora Mivtachim Arena in Tel Aviv. However, on 13 May 2018, the city’s mayor Ron Huldai announced that Tel Aviv is ruling out of hosting the event. Other possible locations include Sammy Ofer Stadium in Haifa and Turner Stadium in Beersheba. Along with the Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem, all three proposals are dependent on the construction of a temporary or permanent roof to cover the stadiums, as a requirement from the EBU.
Eurovision 2019 takes place in final weeks of May
The Eurovision Song Contest will take place in the finale weeks on May. Because of several holidays and memorial days, the first two weeks in Israel are not an option. Especially Yom Haatzmaut (Independence Day) on Wednesday the 8th of May is a big deal. Therefore, there will be no rehearsals on that day, let alone a dress rehearsal. To avoid a clash with that date, the contest must be held in the week of the 21st, 23rd and 25th of May 2019. However, due to the German Cup final taking place on the 25th of May, these dates appear to be unavailable.
The week before (14th, 16th and 18th of May) is therefore the most likely option. But in that case the rehearsal schedule will have to be changed in order to make the 8th of May a day off. Also a big struggle in Israel/Jerusalem: Due to the religious rules of Shabbat, there are no (dress) rehearsals allowed between Friday afternoon and Saturday evening. And there is also no public transportation between these hours. Something which might turn out to be a deal breaker for the EBU.
First countries already applied for Eurovision 2019
As always, there are a couple of early birds that – just like the Eurovision fans – can not wait another year. They have already confirmed that they will take part again in 2019. The first fifteen nations have already (preliminary) told that they intend to return to the contest.
Due to the contest being held in Israel, and potentially Jerusalem for a third time, some have expressed their discontent and called for a boycott, as part of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. 23,000 Icelanders signed a petition calling on the Icelandic national broadcaster RÚV to boycott the event. Lord Mayor of Dublin, Ireland, Mícheál Mac Donncha, who is banned from entering Israel due to his support for the BDS movement, stated that Ireland should withdraw from the 2019 contest due to it taking place in Israel. And Irish Eurovision Winner Charlie McGettigan has also called for RTE to boycott the event stating “‘Look, we don’t agree with this, to celebrate while other people are dying’.
The Left Party of Malmö in Sweden suggested that Eurovision Song Contest shouldn’t take place in Israel, stating: “It’s absolutely unreasonable for Israel to host this gigantic music contest while the occupation is in progress. We want Israel to be excluded from Eurovision on humanitarian grounds. We can not continue dancing while the persecution of the Palestinian people continues. Boycott Israel now!” and Members of the “We Support Jeremy Corbyn” group also called for the UK to boycott the event, although Corbyn himself is yet to release an official statement.
So far, the EBU has not commented on the situation and there has not been a single country that officially issued a boycot for the contest in 2019. Israeli broadcaster Channel 10 however states that the EBU has already told host broadcaster KAN that they take these issues very serious and actual boycots may result in choosing a different host city. Or even a different host nation! Channel 10 asked the EBU whether it is 100% certain if the contest takes place in Israel, and the EBU only stated: “No decision has been made regarding the location and date of the Eurovision 2019.”
Our guess it that it will not actually come to that point, but who knows what will happen next… However, the contest might be used for several political agendas in the upcoming months – if not the full year.
Could Eurovision 2019 not be in Israel?
So with all these issues this early in the season, is there a chance Israel will not host the Eurovision Song Contest 2019? We have to keep in mind that this is something the EBU (and the host broadcaster) always want to prevent. The last time the winning country did not host the contest the next year was back in 1980, when Israel had a lack of funds to host it two years in a row.
But just like then, there is already a debate in Israel whether the country should and can host it in 2019. “Eurovision in Jerusalem? It isn’t at all a given,” Yossi Sharabi, the Director General of Israel’s Culture and Sport Ministry told the TV channel Sports 5.
His comments came while he was discussing the Argentine football team, who decided to cancel an exhibition appearance in Israel after receiving “threats and provocations” from Palestinian groups. That pressure came after the match was moved from Haifa to Jerusalem, whose status is disputed politically and in diplomatic practice.
One day later, his colleague Sport and Culture Minister Miri Regev shot back, saying that if Jerusalem doesn’t host the contest then it should be moved to another country. According to the Times of Israel, Regev told the public broadcaster Kan: “I will recommend to the government that if the Eurovision is not in Jerusalem, then it wouldn’t be right to host it. It will cost Israel NIS 50 million ($14 million) and is designed to market the country,” she said. “So I personally say, if the Eurovision won’t be held in Jerusalem, it’s not right to invest the NIS 50 million in public funds.”
Yossi Sharabi, director-general of the Culture and Sport Ministry, later signaled a change in the government’s position, stating that: “Eurovision in Jerusalem, it’s not a given. We have 4 potential candidates: Jerusalem, Haifa, Tel Aviv and Eilat. All four are bidding for the hosting rights.” The European Broadcasting Union expects this bidding phase to reach a conclsuion by November, when we will also get the official dates for the 2019 contest.