On Saturday night, Netta Barzilai went to Lisbon, Portugal and brought home to Israel its first win in the Eurovision song contest in 20 years with “Toy”, a pop anthem for women’s empowerment. Her victory is a case-in-point for Lovers of Zion raising Israel up to shine its light unto the world despite hate-groups trying to cast a shadow.
Barzilai’s was not a favorite going in and was behind when the judges finished voting, but the audience segment of the vote shot her into first place with 529 points overall as compared to second place Cyprus’s 436 and third place Austria with 342.
Punctuated by beatboxing and clucks, Barzilai accompanied herself on an electronic keypad controlling the looping and special effects. Her personal style is modest and unique, echoed in the signature chorus, “I’m not your toy, you stupid boy, I‘ll take you down now, I’ll make you watch me.”
Barzilai emphasized this aspect of her song while paying homage to her country. Her song was exuberant, bringing the crowd to its feet.
“I’m so happy. Thank you so much for choosing difference. Thank you so much for accepting differences between us. Thank you for celebrating diversity. Thank you. I love my country. Next time in Jerusalem,” Barzilai said after her victory was announced.
Barzilai reiterated her praise for Israel in an interview with Israel’s Kan television, saying that when the contest is held in Jerusalem next year as a result of her win, the world will see “how wonderful we are, what a vibe we have. Best people… the best place in the world.”
Despite the results being broadcast at 1:30 AM due to the time difference between Israel and Portugal, Israelis took to the streets to celebrate and the title of Barzilai’s song, “Toy” appeared in lights on the facade of Tel Aviv’s City Hall.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulated Barzilai by phone after her win, also posting on his facebook, ‘Kapara alayaich’, an expression which literally means “atonement on you” but is used colloquially as an endearing term of blessing.
Barziilai’s success comes in the face of calls by the Boycott Divestment Sanctions Movement (BDS) for the public to censure the Israeli contestant. The Facebook page singled out Barzilai for serving in the Israeli navy. An online petition was posted to Change.Org, an online petition site, to exclude Israel from the Eurovision contest. The petition garnered 1,311 signatures.
Attempts to derail Israel’s entry continued during the voting process, with hackers flooding the cell phone application used to and provide fans with a link to vote for the Barzilai. If successful, this would have resulted in a ‘denial of service’ response, shutting the app down.
Barzilai’s Facebook page and Twitter accounts were also flooded with negative comments, some posts threatening Barzilai. Rabbi Interactive Agency (RIA), which promoted Barzilai’s campaign on social media, was forced to filter out responses from outside of Israel since Facebook allowed the hateful comments.
Israel made its debut at the Eurovision in 1973 and has competed 41 times, winning four times and hosting the competition twice in Jerusalem.