We’re only two days away from the grand final of Israel’s The Next Star for Eurovision 2018, which unfolds on Tuesday February 13. Following the semi-final, four acts remain standing and will sing it out for a shot at Eurovision glory. They are: Netta BarzilaiChen Aharoni, Riki Ben Ari and Jonathan Mergui. Scroll down to form an impression — then vote in our flash poll that will close just hours before the final on Tuesday night. Europe (and Australia): Start voting now!

MEET THE FINALISTS

Netta Barzilai

Netta, 25, performs in clubs and weddings in Tel Aviv, and she was one of this season’s favourites right from her first audition. She has a unique look, which reflects her unique musical style: She’s a one-woman show that you have to watch in order to understand.

In her first audition, and during most of her performances on the show, she had a special vocal looper on stage. But even with just a one-string guitar during her second audition, she still oozed charisma, style and uniqueness in her special version of the Eurovision 1978 winning song, “A-Ba-Ni-Bi”.

Izhar Cohen, the original performer of the tune, watched her cover and said she’d be fab for Eurovision — and the music scene more generally.

Links to more of Netta Barzilai’s perfomances: “A-Ba-Ni-Bi” | “Hey Mama” | Mashup | “What Is Love” | “Barbie Girl” |  “Wannabe” | “Beautiful”

Jonathan Mergui (aka Mergui)

At only 18 years of age, Jonathan has already adopted a stage name: Mergui. He looks and sounds like a combination of Shawn Mendes and Kristian Kostov — two talents that are currently lighting up the charts.

He charmed everyone right from his first auditions — so young and yet so talented! He is also the son of a well-known Israeli singer named Meital Trabelsi. He can sing, he can dance, he captures your attention. And whether or not he wins, he’s most def a star.

The judges Static & Ben El Tavori took a selfie with him after his first audition and said they will take another selfie with him at the final of the show, as they think he will win it.

Links to more of Jonathan Mergui‘s perfomances: “How Far I’ll Go” | “Mercy”“Locked Out of Heaven”  | “Love Yourself” | “Basof Hakol Holef” (At The End It all Passes) | “Roar”  | “Versace On The Floor”“Wake Me Up”“Against All Odds”

Chen Aharoni

Hardcore Eurovision fans will recognize Chen, as he took part in the Israeli national selection Kdam Eurovision 2011, where he reached a very respectable fourth place with his song “Or” (Light).

But Chen was known to Israelis much earlier: In 2007 he took part in Kokhav Nolad (A Star Is Born), where he also reached fourth place and almost made it to the grand final.

Chen has international experience as he participated in the UK X Factor during 2013 but didn’t manage to pass Boot Camp. He has released two albums in Israel and an international EP named “Crazy”.

It was not a big surprise to find out that he made it to the live shows after his great auditions: Chen is a veteran singer. But will he be able to beat the other contestants and go to Eurovision this year?

Links to more of Chen Aharoni’s perfomances: “Wrecking Ball” | “Symphony”“Locked Out of Heaven”  | “Sheket” (Quiet) | “Grenade” | “Rokedet” (Dancing) | “Bang Bang”

Riki Ben Ari

Age ain’t nothing but a number and Riki is the perfect example of that. Now in her 50s, she claims she was born a singer, but only sings in the office and while making her children lunch.

The judges and the audience were shocked by her powerful voice and self-confidence during her auditions and during the entire season, as she sounded like a professional singer who had been on stage for many years, though some found her singing style a bit old-fashioned. Will she be Israel’s next Diva in Eurovision?

Links to more of Riki Ben Ari’s perfomances: “Natural Woman” | “Son of a Preacher Man” | “Greatest Love Of All” | “Mehayom Shehalacht” (From The Day That You Left) | “If I Ain’t Got You” | “Ani Chaya Li Miyom Leyom” (I’m Just Living From Day To Day) | “Hei Shketa” (Be Peaceful) | “Set Fire To The Rain” | “Vision of Love”

VOTE IN OUR POLL

You can vote for as many contestants as you would like, but you can only vote ONE time, so make it count. This poll closes Tuesday at 16:00 CET — just ahead of the final.

THE SEMI-FINAL EPISODE

In case you’re wondering how we arrived at these four acts, here’s the rundown.

Netta Barzilai got a direct ticket to the final from the quarterfinal, leaving five other acts battling for the final three spots.

The five contestants that made it to the semi-final first sang one song each and the one that got the highest score got the second ticket to the final.

The voting process went as usual: each judge voted yay or nay, with a yay awarding the contestant a score of 10%. The audience in the TV studio voted in a similar way via a special smartphone application and the scores were added together during the performance.

Chen Aharoni got the highest score and therefore won the second ticket to the final.

In order to decide which artists would get the last couple of tickets to the final the producers divided the remaining four contestants into duels. In each duel the first artist sang in front of the judges and the audience. Their combined rating set the bar for their opponent.

The opposing artist then sang behind a screen. If the opposing artist managed to beat the score of the first artist, then the screen rose up, signalling that the second artist had won the duel and got a ticket to the final. If not, the first artist won and got the ticket to the final.

Duel 1: Riki Ben Ari VS. Eden Meiri


Riki Ben Ari – “Vision of Love” – Score: 82% (votes from four judges)

Eden Meiri – “Kvar Avru Hashanim” (The Years Have Already Passed) – Score: 76% (votes from four judges)

Duel 2: Howie Danao VS. Jonathan Mergui

Howie Danao – “Lately” – Score: 52% (votes from two judges)

Jonathan Mergui – “Against All Odds” – Score: 88% (votes from four judges)

THE FINALISTS

  • Netta Barzilai

  • Jonathan Mergui

  • Chen Aharoni

  • Riki Ben Ari

In two days – On Tuesday, February 13, the winner will be chosen in a live broadcast at 20:00 CET. You can watch live via these links: option1, option2.

Which artist do you like the most? Who do you think would do well for Israel at Eurovision?

READ MORE ISRAEL EUROVISION NEWS

Photo credits: Ronen Akerman / The Next Star for Eurovision

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AngieP
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AngieP

Netta Barzilai – Beautiful (67): it seemed weak at the beginning but then she nailed it! What a voice! Jonathan Mergui – Against all odds (88): what an amazing song and what a performance. Seriously, I was singing along with him. Chen Aharoni – Bang bang (86): I can already see sth like this in Eurovision! This was amazing! I was afraid he wouldn’t be good vocally because the song is demanding, but he nailed it. I have to say though the backing vocalists did also a great job there. Riki Ben Ari – Vision of love (): what a… Read more »

Kris
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Kris

Netta gets highest votes from judges and lowest from audience though!
I think it will be Jonathan if he passes the first round , else it will be riki or Chen!
Netta will be top 3 for sure.

Idan
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Idan

Too many male singers till now in the compatition (and probably Sweden too)

So for me it’s Riki or Netta.
My heart is with Riki and I hope she will represent me and Israel. However unfortunately it will not happen.
The production advertised massively Netta and Mergui since the beginning.
So it’s hard to see the gudges try to find a reason to insolt the other competitors
So it’s will be one of them ..

I think that thay all great singers, and in this year we just hope that the chosen song will be good enough.
Go Riki! 🙂

Avadapalabra
Guest

I honestly feel like I watched performances from one group of artists and landed in another comment section… HATE MUCH?!? I simply don’t see where the negativity comes from. A boy who can sing, dance and entertain audiences, and all of that very well? Israel maybe sending a catchy song with a good mise-en-scène that could be fun? Great singing? A woman who’s a talent show on her own? Outstanding performances? Either some people here didn’t bother to watch several of their performances, or there’s too much envy going around. Just their SINGING is great National Final material, not to… Read more »

Miguel
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Miguel

Chen is the best, but Netta is my favourite and i hope she wins. Loved her version of wannabe!

I just hope Mergui doesn’t win. He may be cute and a good dancer, but all the others are way better than him.

Sal
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Sal

I’m hoping Neta will win and bring something different to the competition and to Israel’s previous entries but it’s probably gonna be a Nadav Guedj 3.0 with Johnathan Megui -.- YAWN!

Avadapalabra
Guest

Granted, Nadav’s song was not my personal cup of tea… but did you mean “yawn” by a third top-ten placing in a few years for a country who got robbed places in the Finals for many years out of political bias?

And then I have to swallow cheap anthems by European countries who fake parying for peace and broterhood. GIVE ME A BREAK.

Roy Moreno
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Roy Moreno

Eden should have been there instead of Chen
The last battle will be between Mergui and Netta and I hope Netta will win ?
(From Israel)
Mergui is good but it’s getting boring with each episode while Netta slays every time and keeping me interested!

Morenia
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Morenia

How can Chen be 3rd in this poll and Mergui on the 1st place? This plastic doll Ken named Mergui is by far the worst of these 4 finalists. In my opinion Chen and Netta will battle for the win!

Avadapalabra
Guest

Surely you’re not a Swede or from any of the countries usually sending Kens and Barbies…

Vestal
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Vestal

Israel has the only national selection I cannot stand to watch.
Selecting performers only by their ability to entertain or bore a live audience? Professional judges talking *out loud* while the performers are singing? This is basic manners, really. While no one seems to care in the show, to me it makes the whole thing unwatchable.
I’ll have San Marino or Moldova over this, anytime.

omri
Guest
omri

well this is the Israeli way of making things work even tho i kindda aggre with your point on talking while the performers are singing its still one of my favourite NFs because its so funny…. (im Israeli so i can understand what theire saying..) and in addition the abilty to entertain in ESC is one of the most importent tools a singer needs to have in order to get a good place…. but i would rather if this NF would turn itself into something more like Melodifestivalen then a normal reality show…

omri
Guest
omri

NS** (;

Polegend Godgarina
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Polegend Godgarina

I need Netta to go with a fun bop. She delivers charisma and personality from every square inch, such a legend.

Aaran
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Aaran

Chen is definetly the best option for Eurovision. He’s got a great voice, can dance and above all has great charisma on stage. Plus Mergui may be the “pretty boy” but Chen aint bad on the looks department either. With the right song, he could do really well in Lisbon.

Darius
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Darius

Chen Aharoni has the complete package: vocal abilities, look, style.. With a good song he can do very well!

Daniel Slater
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Daniel Slater

Another looks over singing for Israel!

I want Israel to send a woman this year been a long time since that happened

Tobias
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Tobias

Same here 🙁

Geo
Guest
Geo

Chen for the win!

Hada
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Hada

What’s the thing with José and Riki? And why’s Mergui singing this year’s Czech Republic’s entry?

Joking aside, I actually like Riki’s voice a lot. Her style of singing isn’t old-fashioned, her styling and most of the songs she covered are old-fashioned. That problem is easily solvable by, you know, giving her a modern song and modern styling.

I also loved Netta, I wish Eurovision would accept the vocal looper cause that’d be cool to see and hear onstage at ESC.

Joe
Guest
Joe

Took me a second to realize what you were going for with the Czech joke. Lol.

Kaz
Guest
Kaz

They’re all decent but for me the most overall balanced one is Chen. If Israel wants an Imri 2.0 they can choose Jonathan. Riki is good but unless I see her getting some amazing power ballad if ant see her doing well. Netta is sweet and I love her style but I feel she could get lost in the actual contest especially since a lot of countries are sending ‘relaxing’ or jazzy entries. Chen has the overall package of vocals, stage presence and charisma and he could definitely stand out in Lisbon

James
Guest
James

Sad to see Howie eliminated just as the finals is about to start. I wonder how the pairing of contestants are made, because I noticed both Jonathan and Howie faced each other already twice.

You’d think it would make sense to pair them up with other semifinalists the second time around.

Mio
Guest
Mio

100% Netta. She is mesmerizing!

GO
Guest
GO

This is the hot dude that’s gonna win, right? I mean, it’s Israel

Joe
Guest
Joe

Hey, not a bad thing!

Kris
Guest
Kris

Which one is the hot dude?

Ian
Guest
Ian

What Netta does is really cool, but having to build all the elements of her song in just 3 minutes would likely prove very difficult.
That is, assuming she would do that type of song if she got to Eurovision.

Joe
Guest
Joe

I was thinking the same thing, and to take that away from her would make her lose a lot of what makes her special.

OhhHoney
Guest
OhhHoney

Well that’s not true, her audition of A-Ba-Ni-Bi was just her with a one stringed guitar and that was absolutely phenomenal! Her best delivery. So I have no hesitation in sending Netta, she’s amazing

Joe
Guest
Joe

And Izhar liked that one!