Preparation is under way for the biggest song competition across Europe, taking place for the first time in over 20 years in Israel. After Neta Barzilai’s big win last year, she secured Israel as the home for this year’s competition, and Israel is ready to welcome about 20,000 people for the 48th annual Eurovision.
Nine out of the 41 delegations have arrived and rehearsals have begun in the Tel Aviv Expo Center. The semifinals will take place on May 14 and 16, with the finals on May 18, where Madonna is expected to perform. The event will open with an Orange Carpet Ceremony, and the week is scattered with various pop culture events and parties.
This is a unique opportunity for Israel to host thousands of people who would never normally visit. With an ever-present media presence in the news, it’s a chance for newcomers to experience Israel for themselves. Thousands of volunteers are being rallied to support the tourist crowds who are expected to arrive, and many locals have signed up to personally host foreign visitors for traditional Friday night dinners in their homes.
An abundance of Airbnb’s have been booked, yet hotel chains have grossly overpriced their rooms, and are now being forced to lower their prices to try and fill rooms. Accommodations are being made for tourists to receive free bus passes, which has proven difficult for many newcomers to manage since new rules were put into place and cash is no longer accepted on public transport.
This year, Israel will be represented by Kobi Marimi, a 27-year-old from Ramat Gan who was voted into first place and is known for his unique vocal renditions of pop culture songs, from Beyoncé to the Beatles to Lion King.