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How to Eurovision: Israel

22 January 2021 at 17:00 CET
Netta from Israel wins the 2018 Eurovision Song Contest with Toy. Andres Putting
Each participating country brings their own distinct style to the competition. Follow us as we dive right into all the unique reasons we love to watch each country perform in the Contest with our series 'How To Eurovision'. This time, we're celebrating... Israel!

The Middle Eastern country on the Mediterranean Sea has picked up the winning trophy enough times over the years to stamp its mark on the competition as one of the Contest's biggest powerhouses. With a list of entries full of different genres, dance routines, and mixed results, it's now time for us to look at how Israel takes on Eurovision.

Synchronised dancing

Dance is an integral part of Israeli culture, so it makes sense that it has frequently featured in their Eurovision performances over the years. In particular, synchronised dance routines have become a mainstay for the country.

In their first 3 appearances we saw their performers swing their own way. But by 1976, their love affair with matching dance moves really took off.

Since then, we've been blessed with years of well-timed choreography.

You've got to love this routine in Izhar Cohen's Olé Olé back in 1985:

Izhar Cohen represented Israel in 1985 SVT

And the two dancers behind Moti Galadi and Sarai Tzuriel in their 1986 performance of Yavoh Yom:

Moti Galadi and Sarai Tzuriel performed Yavoh Yom in Bergen in 1986 NRK

And the wackier routine by Datner and Kushnir during their performance of Shir Habatlanim in 1987:

Datner and Kushnir performed Shir Habatlanim in 1987 RTBF

Oh, and Liora's shuffles and steps in Amen:

Liora performed Amen in 1995 RTÉ

And we couldn't go past the twists and turns from the dancers in Lior Narkis' Words For Love in 2003:

Lior Narkis represented Israel in 2003 LTV

OK, we think you get the idea now... While the dancing was fun, it also gave rise to some good results too. Take Milk and Honey for example, whose synchronised master piece took them all the way to the top back in 1979.

Milk and Honey Unknown

And Izhar Cohen and the Alphabeta with Abanibi which took Israel's first win the year before.

Then there was Avi Toledano's Hora which finished 2nd in 1982 and the year after that, Ofra Haza's Hi did the same thing again for Israel.

Good, bad and nothing in between?

Some people have noted that Israel performs really good or really bad at the Contest and that there isn't much in between. Could this be true?

The country's won the competition 4 times, including when Dana International nailed it with Diva in 1998:

And with Netta, who broke the internet in 2019 with Toy.

Netta won the Eurovision Song Contest 2018 EBU / Andres Putting

Of course, they had their second place finishers (1982 and 1983) and a third place finisher too, Duo Datz's Kan in 1991.

And they've also picked up 20 top 10 finishes over the years!

So, Israel regularly brings in some major hits to Eurovision. But, what about any misses?

Well, in 1993 Lakahat Shiru's act, Shiru, didn't fair so well and landed in 24th place (out of 25).

Ping Pong didn't get too high up on the scoreboard either with their performance of Sa'me'akh in 2000 which came in at number 22 (out of 24).

Ping Pong represented Israel in 2000 SVT

There was also a moment in time when Israel didn't even make it to the competition at all. The country attempted to participate in the Eurovision Song Contest 1996 which took place in Oslo. It was the only time in Eurovision's history that countries had to go through an audio-only pre-qualifying round (except host country Norway). In order to ensure the number of participants attending the Contest was capped at 22 (the number set by the EBU at that time), Israel was one of 7 countries which failed to qualify and was eliminated from the competition.

In more recent times, Israel struggled to find the right formula. Since the introduction of the Semi Finals in 2004, Israel has failed to reach the final six times. They experienced a particularly bad run between 2011 and 2014, despite bringing back previous winner, Dana International.

Mei Finegold represented Israel at the Eurovision Song Contest 2014 EBU

Variety in numbers

One of the other great things about having Israel in the Contest is that it brings a variety of genres, via a band, group or solo act.

Israel has flexed it's diversity muscle over the years when it comes to their style of music, from rock (Teapacks' Push The Button) and ballads (Harel Skaat's Milim) to disco (Izabo's Time) and pop (Eddie Butler's Together We Are One). You'll never know what they'll bring next!

Izabo performed 'Time' in Baku in 2012 EBU

Fun fact: Many of Israel's Eurovision songs go on to have a life of their own even after the competition is over. Like Eden's Yom Huledeth (Happy Birthday), which has become so iconic that it's still sung at many birthday parties to this day.

Whether their acts have turned into an overwhelming success or failed to qualify, Israel really knows how to represent its culture, character and diversity through song and (synchronised) dance!

What's makes you love Israel in the Eurovision Song Contest?