Fan-favorite Shalva Band on Saturday night narrowly beat another top contender to represent Israel at the Eurovision Song Contest in May, becoming the first finalist of Hakochav Haba, which selects Israel’s contestant for the musical competition.
Shalva Band Video
In a dramatic showdown, the band, which is made up of eight young adults with disabilities, beat singer Kitrijah by two points with the help of audience votes, after judges equally split up the votes between the contestants.
For the past few years, Israel has selected its candidate for the world’s biggest music event – which this year will take place in Tel Aviv – through a singing competition television series. That strategy earned it the gold at last year’s Eurovision in Portugal after Netta Barzilai beat out all rivals in that year’s Hakochav Haba.
Shalva easily won over the hearts and minds of the show’s panel of judges – and a wide swath of the Israeli public. The group came together through its connection to the Shalva National Children’s Center in Jerusalem, and consistently received top scores from the judges and the studio audience for its performances.
Deena, an immigrant from India, and Annael, an immigrant from France – the band’s lead singers – are both blind. Yosef has Williams syndrome, Yair and Tal have Down syndrome, and Guy is visually impaired. They’re joined on stage by Shai – the band’s manager, who helped found the group after a long recovery from a serious injury sustained during his IDF service – and Sarah, the daughter of Kalman and Malki Samuels, the founders of the Shalva Center.
The band faces an unknown fate should it proceed to win a ticket to Tel Aviv, because it will be slated to represent Israel during the Eurovision finale on Saturday night, May 18, which includes a commitment to take part in rehearsals over Shabbat. Several members of the band are religiously observant, and are not willing to work on Friday night or Saturday.
Sources close to Shalva told The Jerusalem Post that if the band is not allowed to record its rehearsal before Shabbat, it will simply not be able to participate.
A source close to the Eurovision production said that exceptions like this are very rare for the European Broadcasting Union, and it is unlikely the EBU will allow a change to its tight schedule.