Netta Barzilai may have said “see you next year in Jerusalem” during her Eurovision winner’s speech, but now a top cultural official says that may not be a guarantee.
Yossi Sharabi, the Director General of Israel’s Culture and Sport Ministry, addressed the issue on Wednesday.
“Eurovision in Jerusalem? It isn’t at all a given,” Sharabi told the TV channel Sports 5. “It’s early to talk about this. Everybody wants it to be in Jerusalem. But there could well be other considerations.”
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.
As Eurovision fans are well aware at this point, similar tension surrounds the very clear desire of Israeli politicians to host Eurovision 2019 in Jerusalem.
Sharabi’s comments suggest that everything is still up for grabs and that Jerusalem is not a lock — despite having the backing of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who tweeted his intentions to host the event their moments after Netta’s victory.
Among the “other considerations” that Sharabi may have been referring to? Haaretz names at least two. The first is “the political and security aspects” that “could arouse opposition among the nations participating”. The second is the fact that Eurovision rehearsals and activities in the venue “would be violating the Shabbat”.
As we previously reported, Jerusalem is the heart of Israel’s Orthodox Jewish population, who strictly observe their traditions and religious laws.
According to Jewish religious law, Shabbat — the holy sabbath — is observed from just before sunset on Friday evening until Saturday night.
The Saturday evening broadcast of the show, which will start at 22:00 local time, won’t conflict with this. However, the Friday evening jury show and Saturday afternoon rehearsals would.
Yaakov Litzman — leader of the ultra-Orthodox party Agudat Yisrael, and Israel’s Deputy Minister of Health — drafted a letter to the Ministers of Tourism, Communications, and Culture and Sports, in which he demanded that the event not violate religious laws.
He wrote: “In the name of hundreds of thousands of citizens, Jews from all populations and sectors, for whom keeping the Sabbath is important to them, I am asking you at this early stage, before any production or other details of the event have been set, to make sure this doesn’t undercut the holiness of the Sabbath and to work in every way to prevent Sabbath desecration….”
The EBU and KAN have both said publicly that the host city has not yet been decided.