The Shalva group, a beloved Israeli band featuring musicians with special needs, has dropped out of the Eurovision Song contest because compulsory rehearsals for the Saturday-night finals will take place on Shabbat.
The group, composed of several members who are blind and some with Down syndrome, made its announcement on Wednesday.
They will perform during the semi-finals, which do not take place on Shabbat.
Though Eurovision is being held in Israel, a large percentage of citizens keep Shabbat, which prohibits playing musical instruments or activating electricity. Nevertheless, the contest will not be making exceptions for finalists, even if they are observant Jews.
Israeli media reported that some Israeli officials requested leniency from the European Broadcasting Union but were met with rejection, having been told that the tight schedule of Eurovision did not allow any flexibility, and that all entrants have to attend every rehearsal and every show.
One of the most popular Israeli performers, Omer Adam, also announced that he would not perform at Eurovision due to the Shabbat rehearsal schedule. Recent reports have indicated that pop singer Madonna might take his place.