Israel made their Eurovision debut at the 1973 contest in Luxembourg City and have gone on to be one of the most successful nations, with four Grand Prix backed up by two second places and one third. Here’s a look back at some of their more interesting entries. We have purposely skipped their winners.
1973 “Ey Sham” by Ilanit
The 1973 contest was staged just months after the massacre of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics and security in Luxembourg was more than tight as Israel made it’s contest debut. llanit’s song was drawn last of seventeen to perform and was also notable for a female orchestra conductor, Nurit Hirsh, who also co-composed the entry. Nurit was the second-ever female conductor after Monica Dominique of Sweden the same year. “Ey Sham” ended the night a very creditable fourth. Ilanit would return to Eurovision four years later with a mid-table result.
1983 “Hi” by Ofra Haza
A decade on from their debut Israel had become a major force at Eurovision. They won the contest on their sixth go in 1978 and again on their seventh in 1979 on home soil, becoming only the second country to win consecutive contests after Spain (whose second win was a tied result). As the Eighties started they backed that up with runners-up slots in 1982 and 1983. The latter is most interesting as it featured the amazing Ofra Haza. Ofra would of course go on to become a superstar of the Eighties including her massive international hit “Im Nin’alu” before her tragic early death. In 1983 her joyous entry fell just six points short behind the Luxembourgish winner.
1987 “Shir Habatlanim” by Lazy Bums
In 1987 the Kdam festival (often used to select the Israeli entry) was won by this “novelty” entry. The prospect of it representing Israel in the Brussels contest lead the Israeli Minister Of Culture to threaten his resignation. but this was never carried out. “Lazy Bums” comprised comedians Natan Datner and Avi Kushnir. Whilst not emulating Israel’s very best results, Europe got the joke and the song finished a creditable eighth of twenty-two, despite being performed in the “graveyard” position two.
1993 “Shiru” by Sarah’le Sharon & The Shiru Group
Israel’s worst result in a Eurovision final and included here for curiosity value as the performance is quite something and showcases some of the best and worst of Israel at ESC. Six people on stage, comprising the lead singer/pianist, a four-piece who handle a lot of the main stuff, and a poor lone backing singer who gets ignored for the entire three minutes. Second last of twenty-five and relegated Israel from the 1994 contest.
2005 “HaSheket SheNish’ar” by Shiri Maimon
Fast forward twelve years to a very different style of Eurovision. By now of course Israel had won the contest for a third time in 1998 with the unforgettable Dana International. A year later the language rule was abolished and by 2004 the EBU had given up on trying to manage the number of competing countries and inaugurated a semi-final. For the first few years it was just one semi to select just ten qualifiers from maybe two dozen or more contenders. Quite brutal. In 2005 Israel sent a quite irrestistable ballad with a charismatic singer and finished a solid seventh in the semi-final. Come the final, Shiri exceeded all expectation and ended the night in fourth place. This would remain Israel’s best result of this century before Netta came along.
2015 “Golden Boy” by Nadav Guedj
Israels best result of this decade pre “Toy” came in 2015. Cheeky chappie Nadav was third in his semi and then ninth in the Grand Final. A rather fitting reference to Tel Aviv in the lyric.