On Tuesday participating artists visited Jerusalem, taking in the main sites of the city. The excursion included a visit to the city’s Western Wall, also known by its Hebrew name, Kotel, as well as the so-called Wailing Wall. Delegates were also taken on a walking tour around the ancient city which took in sites such as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and Mount of Olives where artists took the opportunity to sing happy birthday to Austria’s Nathan Trent. "It is amazing to spend my birthday here, with all these people who are becoming part of my family somehow, I am happy to be here and thank you for having me," said Nathan.
Tuesday evening saw the Red Carpet and Opening Ceremony of Israel Calling take place. All delegations donned their finest clothes and partied the night away at the Herzliya Marina. Orna Datz, who represented Israel in the Eurovision Song Contest as part of Duo Datz, performed alongside Liora who represented the country in 1995.
The Israel Calling press conference took place on Wednesday morning where each of the contestants were asked questions by the assembled press. An emotional Anja from Denmark said that it was a dream come true to be singing in the competition for Denmark. "I wanted to sing, I followed my dream and didn’t give up," she said. Belgium’s Blanche impressed the audience with her Hebrew language skills whilst Israel’s Imri revealed that he’s looking for love! Imri also added that he was really touched that so many delegations had make the trip to his home country and he was really looking forward to seeing them again in Kyiv.
Sweden’s Robin Bengtsson was asked when he was going to be doing on the 14th of May to which he jokingly replied: "Celebrating my victory!" Robin explained that he is just happy to participate in the contest regardless of the result. The overwhelming theme which continued to arise was that of resilience. Every artist participating in the event this year had a tale to tell about their journey to the stage. As JOWST from Norway said; “Grab the moment and follow your dreams!"
On Wednesday afternoon participating artists were taken to a tree planting ceremony in at President’s Forest. Following the opening speeches, each act planted a tree near their respective flags which were flying in the glorious spring sunshine. After that it was time to return to Tel Aviv to prepare for the main Israel Calling concert.
Israel’s most recent Eurovision Song Contest winner, Dana International opened the show with a lively rendition of her winning song from 1998, Diva. She invited the respective acts to join her on-stage ahead of the full concert which was also broadcast live on the Israel Calling Facebook page. During the show the growing camaraderie between the contestants was clear with each of the acts cheering each other on. The concert closed with a performance from Orna Datz and a final group photograph in front of Tel Aviv’s city hall. For the lucky few who did not have early flights, a boat trip was planned on Thursday morning.
Whilst the party may be over in Israel, it’s only just beginning in Amsterdam where Eurovision in Concert takes place on Saturday 8th April. A record 35 countries will be represented in the Dutch capital this year.
The Israel Calling project was initiated and produced by Tali Eshkoli. The event was held in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Tourism, the Ministry of Jerusalem and Heritage, The Jewish National Fund, Herzliya Municipality, the “StandWithUs” organisation and the Tel Aviv Municipality.