Israel’s Netta Wins 2018 Eurovision Song Contest With ‘Toy’

Israel won the 2018 Eurovision contest with Netta Barzilai’s song "Toy," beating Cyprus and Austria in the popular vote. This is the first time since 1998 that Israel wins the song contest, and fourth time overall.

The first time Israel won was in 1978 with the song "Ah-Bah-Nee-Bee," performed by Izhar Cohen and Alphabeta. Israel won again the following year with the song "Hallelujah," and in 1998, artist Dana International won over the judges and audience with the song "Diva."

– Eurovision 2018 Grande Finale

Celebrations in Rabin Square, Tel Aviv. – דלג

Celebrations in Rabin Square, Tel Aviv.

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Thanking the audience for their vote, the 25-year-old singer praised their choice to accept diversity and for choosing something different. Afterwards, she proclaimed her victory by screaming: "I love my country, next year in Jerusalem," and concluded by saying "Thank you, Europe!"

In what went against polling results and expert opinions, Austria led the jury vote and held a substantial lead over Israel and Cyprus, the two projected leads. Sweden also surpassed expected winners, only to drop in ranking along with Austria once the popular vote was counted.

For the first time, Russia didn’t make it to the final despite its participation in the semi-final round.           

Ireland, on the other hand, was considered a weak contender, but pulled through to qualify for the final because of singer Ryan O’Shaughnessy ‘s powerful performance, which featured a same-sex couple dancing on stage, making waves in the international media.

In China, the semi-final and grand finale were both censored.

The final showdown transpired as forecasted: it was a call between Cyprus and Israel, with Barzilai claiming the win and leaving Cyprus’ Eleni Foureira in second place.

Cultue Minister Miri Regev spoke to Barzilai following her victory, commending her for the performance. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also posted praise on his social network accounts, and spoke to Barzilai on the phone during the broadcast. The premier called Barzilai "wonderful," and told her she "charmed the whole world." He concluded by saying she was Israel’s greatest ambassador.

People celebrate in Tel Aviv the winning of the Eurovision Song Contest by Israel’s Netta, May 12, 2018.Tomer Appelbaum

Celebrating in Tel Aviv, May 12, 2018.David Bachar

As for her future, Barzilai expressed hope that fans would be open to her subsequent offerings, and know that she’s not always going to be a "cute" pop singer.

Meanwhile in Tel Aviv, thousands of people gathered to celebrate  Barzilai’s victory in Rabin Square, chanting "Toy" while her name was projected on the municipality building alongside the Israeli flag.

The police seemed taken by surprise as they tried to get the crowd toward the center of the square since they were blocking traffic. People waved Israeli flags while chanting Barzilai’s victorious song over and over again. Some chanted “who’s not jumping supported Cyprus,” teasing the Cyprus entry in Eurovision who seemed close to winning until Barzilai received a disproportionate amount of votes from the public.

“It means a lot to us, after 70 years Israel is finally on the map, we did not expect so many votes from European countries,” said some Barzilai supporters in the square who didn’t want to reveal their names. “Next year we want to see Eurovision in our capital, that is Jerusalem!” they concluded.

Davide Lerner contributed to this report.