Israel’s Eurovision pick drops out over compulsory rehearsals on Shabbat

The Shalva group, which includes members who are blind and have Down syndrome, says the European Broadcasting Union discriminate against Orthodox Jews after denying their request for scheduling changes and staging compulsory rehearsals on the Jewish Sabbath.

By the Associated Press


An Israeli band that includes musicians with special needs has dropped out of the Eurovision Song Contest because it would force some of its observant members to perform on a Saturday, the Jewish day of rest.

The Shalva group said Wednesday it’s quitting Israel’s qualifying competition after the Eurovision organizers said it would make no exceptions for the Jewish state’s ultimate winner. The competition is held on a Saturday night and the compulsory rehearsal falls during the hours of Shabbat.

The group will, however, perform during a semi-final that does not fall on Shabbat.

Shalva, which has several members who are blind or have Down syndrome, has become a fan favorite and serious contender to sing Israel’s entry. Some critics in Israel say the Eurovision seems tolerant of all besides Orthodox Jews.

According to the Israeli media, a number of Israeli officials asked the European Broadcasting Union to relax its regulations and allow the group to perform, but due to the tight scheduling of the competition, the request was denied.

But EBU rules state that all entrants into the competition have to attend every rehearsal and every show. The dress rehearsal for the final is recorded the day before the live event, which is held on a Saturday night.

As this recording is used both to allow judges around the world to see the songs in advance and as a back-up in case of technical problems during the live event competition, it is imperative that every act is in attendance.

Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai at Eurovision event – Photo: Ynet [unattributed]

Last September, the EBU announced that the 2019 Eurovision would be held in Tel Aviv and not in Israel’s capital Jerusalem as had been previously planned. The contest will be held in Israel as its 2018 entrant Netta Barzilai won with her song “Toy.”

Netta Barzilai at the Eurovision Song Contest 2018 Blue Carpet event, 6 May 2018. – Photo/ Wikimedia,Dewayne Barkley, EuroVisionary

The decision came after months of speculation regarding the location of the annual song contest, with the government initially insisting on holding the popular event in Jerusalem. But following a backlash over the US recognition of the city as Israel’s capital and a subsequent fear of boycotts it dropped the demand.


View original Ynet publication at:,7340,L-5459000,00.html