On May 12, shortly after Netta Barzilai won Eurovision 2018, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent a tweet heard round the world.
“Netta, you have brought great glory to the state of Israel!” he wrote. “Next year, in Jerusalem!”
He later added: “These days Jerusalem is blessed with many gifts. Another one we received last night with Netta’s brilliant and explosive victory.”
Nir Barkat, the mayor of Jerusalem, chimed in too, saying that the Jerusalem Municipality will work overtime to prepare for a perfect Eurovision competition in 2019.
Most host countries take several months to decide on their Eurovision host city. But judging from these comments at the very top of Israel’s government, it seems clear they’ve already chosen.
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— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) May 12, 2018
Why is Jerusalem a controversial Eurovision host city?
The ancient city is significant to Jews, Christians and Muslims, and is home to a number of sacred religious sites, including the Temple Mount, which is venerated by all three religions.
Politically both Israel and Palestine claim the city as their capital. Neither claim is widely recognised. However, today — two days after Netta’s Eurovision victory — the United States is officially relocating its Embassy to Jerusalem, a move that has already sparked outrage both at home and abroad for months.
Many fear that the decision to host Eurovision in Jerusalem, which previously hosted in 1999 and 1979, will stoke tensions in the city, which is already dealing with clashes. This gruesome headline from the Guardian conveys the ongoing tragedy: “Israeli troops kill dozens of Palestinians protesting against US embassy move to Jerusalem”.
That has understandably led some fans to worry about security concerns and the ever-present threat of terrorist attacks.
We should point out that Israel has a long history of hosting large-scale events — and at the highest level of security. Recall Eurovision 1979 and 1999; Tel Aviv’s massive gay pride celebrations which take place every year; the recent Israel Calling event, which welcomed 30,000 spectators to Rabin Square; and sold-out shows from Madonna, Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, Paul McCartney and more.
Jerusalem: Potential Eurovision venues
In recent years, Tel Aviv has been considered a major Eurovision hub, having served as the host city for the popular Israel Calling promotional event.
But mayor Ron Huldai has already said that Tel Aviv will not bid to host the Eurovision Song Contest 2019.
Israel’s Globes newspaper has taken that as a sure-fire sign we’re headed to Jerusalem.
The paper reports that the International Convention Center, which hosted Eurovision in both 1979 and 1999, is considered too small for Eurovision 2019. It has a capacity of just 3,100, which wouldn’t work with the new super-sized Eurovision, which includes two semi-finals, a grand final, and, more typically, tens of thousands of audience members.
The Municipality of Jerusalem has floated two potential venues.
Jerusalem Pais Arena
Teddy Soccer Stadium
What do you make of Jerusalem as a potential host city? Do you like the two venues that have been reported by the press? Let us know in the comments box below!