Forty-two countries set up camp in the Swedish capital this week ahead of Saturday’s Eurovision Song Contest grand final.
On Monday night the Israeli delegation hosted a massive party attended by over thousand revellers, 18 years to the day since Dana International won in Birmingham.
Despite worries that there may be anti-Israel outbursts in light of the deteriorating relations between Jerusalem and Stockholm, the Israeli delegation have been treated as Eurovision royalty.
Nicky Byrne of Westlife fame, but now representing Ireland, opened the live performances followed by Belarus and Bulgaria. The message Eurovision wants to portray is tolerance, acceptance and diversity which was demonstrated when fan got up on the stage cloaked on a Lebanese flag to rapturous applause and cheering.
Israel’s Hovi Star finished the show and brought the house down with his rendition of Made Of Stars which had high hopes of qualifying from the second semi final on Thursday. Cyprus and Malta qualified from the first semi-final on Tuesday which saw the shock exit of Iceland.
Earlier on there was a Yom Hazkaron ceremony at the city’s Jewish Community Centre remembering Israel’s fallen soldiers and victims of terror. Israeli Ambassador to Sweden, Isaac Bachman, told Jewish News: ”It’s crucial for Israel to be involved in Eurovision. This is just another brick in the wall in us building up another side of our country. Diplomatically and politically this is very important for us.”
The European Broadcasting Union is keen to clamp down on those trying to use Eurovision to promote their cause and have banned the waving of the Palestinian flag and all other non-UN states.
Security has been tighter than usual after it’s been reported that ISIS has threatened to attack, according to Swedish newspaper, Dagens Nyheter.
Hovi told Jewish News: “There is a place for politics and this is not it. We all have to get on together and that is so obvious here. Countries which may see things differently politically leave all that outside which is certainly true in Israel’s case.”
• For more information on this year’s songs go to eurovision.tv The 2016 Eurovision Song Contest, BBC1, 8pm this Saturday.