Israel’s Netta Barzilai has stormed to Eurovision 2018 victory with her catchy pop song, “Toy”! The self-proclaimed “funny pop star” trounced bookies’ favourites Cyprus with a huge 529 points to just 436.
The Israeli star beat out the competition with an empowering dance anthem about the #MeToo movement. “Toy” features vocals loops, bold facial expressions, and a signature chicken dance. Israelis know 25-year-old Netta, who won Israel’s “HaKochav HaBa” singing competition earlier this year, for her quirky style, bright wardrobe, and witty personality.
Barzilai previously spoke out about her journey to self-love in spite of negative messages from industry professionals. She embraces her quirks and emphasises authenticity: “I just had to be me, no matter what my size is”.
This year’s contest was held in Lisbon, Portugal on Saturday 12th May. The Eurovision Song Contest is open to members of the European Broadcasting Union including both Israel and Australia, and is the world’s biggest singing competition. It focuses on original songs and is also celebration of those too “different” for mainstream music. This is Israel’s first Eurovision triumph since Dana International won in the UK in 1998.
Jubilant Netta accepted her trophy with a powerful message about diversity: “I’m so happy. Thank you for choosing difference, thank you so much for accepting differences between us. Thank you for celebrating diversity… I love my country. Next time in Jerusalem!”
Israel celebrated Netta’s victory well into the early hours of Sunday morning, as thousands came together at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv to party at the square’s iconic fountain. Drenched revellers danced under City Hall’s walls, which were emblazoned with lights reading “Toy” and colourful hearts. Similarly exuberant celebrations took place at Jerusalem’s Machane Yehuda Market.
Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu phoned Netta shortly after her win, telling her, “You are wonderful. You are lovely… and you are the best ambassador for Israel”. Certainly, Barzilai is the most effective ambassador for Israel. As a result of her victory, Eurovision 2019 will be in Jerusalem, bringing international exposure and increased tourism to the capital.
Netta’s final message to the world from Portugal on her winning night? “Do good to others, and be good to yourselves”. This sentiment – and the woman herself – sum up what it means to be Israeli. We care about each other. We celebrate each other’s victories. Most of all, we are unabashedly proud of who we are and of what makes us unique – and that truly is the Heart of Israel.
Watch the music video for Netta’s winning song here (courtesy of YouTube):