By Spencer BARNETT, in Malmö.
Saturday night saw Sweden stage the impressive final of the 2013 Eurovision Song Contest.
Two semi-finals last Tuesday and Thursday weeded out the weaker entries, among them the Israeli song, Rak Bishvelo (Only for Him) sung by 21-year-old songstress Moran Mazor.
After the show she was in jubilant mood despite her dismal placing. “I am sad that I didn’t make the final. I did my best.”
Only 45 Israeli fans supported her in Malmo compared with more than double that number in previous years as many were worried about travelling to a city plagued by a history of anti-semitism.
Yoni Katan, a 27-year-old economist from Jerusalem told me of a channel 10 documentary aired earlier this year in Israel highlighting the anti-Israel sentiment in the city.
“My parents were very worried about me being here in Malmo. When we have been in venues around the city where events related to Eurovision have taken place we have flipped over our fan accreditation passes worn around our necks so that Israel can’t be read. I am with my friend Moshe but we call ourselves John and Ron in public so as not to draw any unwanted attention as to where we’re from”.
Last week saw a crowd of over 100 anti-Israel marchers with Palestinian flags traipse through Sweden’s third largest city chanting anti-Israel slogans and carrying ‘Boycott Israel’ banners. Although this was for Nakba day it conveniently coincided with Israel’s participation at the 58th running of the annual songfest.
Leon Kichler, 32 from Tel Aviv is Vice President of the Israeli Eurovision Fan Club. There is no doubting his passion for this annual offering of mediocre music as he had the contest’s logo boldly tattooed on his arm back home. He arrived here a week before Israel performed and experienced Malmo living up to its reputation on arrival.
Talking exclusively to the Jewish News he recounted what happened. I was walking through the city with my luggage trying to find where I was staying when a group of young middle eastern looking men approached me asking where I was from.
With my heart pounding and sensing something was wrong I replied Cyprus. I was then asked “where are the Israelis staying as we want to bomb them.” This was reported to the police who called Kichler back a couple of days later asking for more details of this incident.
Israel finished with just 40 points after Thursday’s semi beating only Albania, F.Y.R Macedonia and last place Latvia.
This is the third consecutive year Israel have failed to qualify for the final with many here citing the political dynamic of the voting system hindering any progress with so much tit for tat scoring between neighbouring nations.
Bonnie Tyler representing the UK with ‘Believe in Me’ improved on the UK’s second from last placing last year.
Her husband, Robert Sullivan was part of Great Britain’s Judo squad at the 1972 Munich Olympics and told me his memories of when the Israeli squad were attacked there. “We were staying next to the Israeli block when it got stormed.
The police just shouted get down and stay on the floor. Of course at the time we didn’t know what was going on.
It was only later when we found out what had happened – how the Israelis had been taken to the airport and murdered there. This effected all of us and cast a shadow over the rest of the games but the best tribute to those Israeli athletes was to complete the games albeit under a massive cloud.
That affected all of us but you can’t let the terrorists win-that’s why today I am fully behind fighting all the extremism we have.” I asked Robert how the Olympics compared to Eurovision.
“Very similar. The organisation behind the scenes is the same in many aspects. The press conferences, where you need to be and when is almost the same. The whole behind the scenes process is the same.
It’s very tiring but really reminds me of Munich. I’ve snuck Bonnie out a couple times from places she’s meant to have been so we can go back to the hotel we are sharing ironically with the Israeli team. Even though Munich was over 40 years ago I have used my experience there to help Bonnie this week in Malmo.”
2013 belonged to 19 year old Emmelie De Forest. Singing bare-foot reminiscent of Sandie Shaw’s 1967 win, she bought victory to Sweden’s near neighbour, Denmark with 281 points.
A bubbly Bonne Tyler finished in 19th place mustering only 23 points from 38 voting nations. Maybe both the UK and Israel need to assess the relevance of the songs they’ll be sending next year to wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen.