THEY didn’t need prompting with the lyrics. The thousands of Israelis who descended on Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square for the homecoming of Netta Barzilai knew her Eurovision-winning song word for word.
They also did a pretty good job of imitating the now-famous chicken noises that punctuated her song Toy, an anthem of female empowerment which impressed judges, but got its final boost to the top spot from public voting.
Next year’s competition will now be held in Israel. “There is nothing like an Israeli party; you’ll find out next year,” she promised Eurovision officials. “I am proud and honoured to bring this magical event to Israel.”
Straight after being crowned winner on Saturday night, Barzilai stressed her message of women accepting themselves. “I celebrate myself no matter what my size is, how my hair is, how my voice is,” she said. “I just have to be me, listen to myself.”
She partied all night after the win – and then, on the flight back home, accepted the PA system from flight attendants and gave a rendition of the song to passengers.
After touching down, she held a press conference and said: “This is a big moment, for us as a delegation and as a country that doesn’t have a lot to be happy about these days.”
Israeli leaders expressed pride at the win, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called her after the result. He also opened his cabinet meeting the next morning with the greeting “boker toy”, instead of good morning which is “boker tov”.
The sentiment was echoed by Australian Jewish leaders.
Executive Council of Australian Jewry co-CEO Alex Ryvchin said, “Netta is a symbol of everything that is good about Israel. She is bold, outspoken, progressive and fabulous. Best of all, her victory ensures that Eurovision 2019 is coming to Israel!”
Zionist Federation of Australia president Danny Lamm said, “What we saw in the lead-up to the final was a concerted effort by the BDS movement to encourage participating countries not to vote for Israel. But what we saw on the night was a vote for diversity and a result that was almost completely void of politics with countries like Azerbaijan, Georgia, Spain, Ukraine, France, Cyprus, Poland, Germany and Armenia all awarding Israel 10 or more points in the public vote.
“On the same day that we celebrated the reunification of Jerusalem, it was a wonderful feeling to see a strong Israeli woman declare to the entire world, ‘I love my country, next time in Jerusalem!'”
Alon Amir, author of Three Minutes of Eternity, a new book about the Eurovision Song Contest, told The AJN that he wasn’t surprised by the win. “You fall in love with her the second you see her,” he said, saying her strength is that “she’s not trying to be anyone else or speak in a certain way – she’s just herself”.
He added: “In the last 10 years you need, for Eurovision, a good song, a good performance and a message. With the ‘Me Too’ movement and Netta and how she looks and who she is, she was very well positioned.”
Amir, a publicist for past Eurovision teams, who is speaking in Australia next month, summed up her winning personality as “just knowing who you are and knowing your worth”, and said: “I’m not sure it’s brave as people say, rather it’s inspiring.”
Some Eurovision winners fade to obscurity, but he thinks that Barzilai could have a successful career in mainstream music ahead of her. “She has everything going her way to do it,” said Amir.
“Toy will be a hot song for the next two to three months. Eurovision is a platform but that doesn’t guarantee anything. Now, it’s up to her.”