Israel’s Netta Barzilai won the Eurovision final in Libson, Portugal, on Saturday night.
Earlier Saturday, Israel was ranked in second place in the betting charts, but ultimately trounced the other competitors, taking 529 points overall, to Cyprus’s 436, in second place.
“I’m so happy – thank you so much,” said an emotional Barzilai when she took the stage after her win. “Thank you so much for choosing difference, thank you so much for accepting differences between us… I love my country, next time in Jerusalem!”
Many countries’ juries gave 12 points — the highest possible — to Israel, including France, Finland, Austria, San Marino and the Czech Republic. Israel also got the most points from the televoters.
Israel gave its 12 points to Austria, followed by 10 to Sweden and 8 to the UK. Kan’s Lucy Ayoub announced the jury’s decision, the first ever participation for the new public broadcaster.
Israel won the contest exactly 20 years ago, in 1998, and 40 years ago, in 1978 (plus in 1979).
Ahead of taking the stage on Saturday night, Barzilai received plenty of personalized messages from Israeli officials, including President Reuven Rivlin and Culture Minister Miri Regev.
Rivlin spoke with Barzilai on Saturday shortly before she went on stage, telling her “from Jerusalem, from Nechama and I, we are sending you ‘douze points'” — i.e. 12 points, the highest any country can be awarded.
Regev uploaded a video of her and Barzilai to her Facebook page on Saturday night, writing “please God next year in Jerusalem – we’re crossing our fingers for you Netta!”
Once the voting opened, even Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave Barzilai an endorsement on his Twitter account. And Gal Gadot posted an image of her on her Instagram feed, urging her followers to cast their votes for Israel.
The competition was marred when a protester jumped on to the stage when the UK’s SuRie was performing. The man grabbed the microphone from the singer’s hand and yelled “Nazis of the UK media, we demand freedom.” She clapped along on stage until she had the microphone returned to her.
SuRie — whose song was co-written by Israeli Gil Lewis — was offered an opportunity to take the stage and perform again, but declined.
The night was full of plenty of Eurovision-friendly over-the-top moments, from Ukraine’s literally on-fire piano, to the Estonian opera song (in Italian, of course), Ireland’s gay love story and Serbia’s inclusion of a nutty professor in its ensemble. Moldova was memorable for its dancing body parts routine, while The Netherlands gave a U.S. country music-inspired performance with the song “Outlaw in ‘Em.”