Israel reveals Eurovision song after weeks of wrangling

March 12, 2024 6:19 pm

[Source: CNN Entertainment]

Israel has unveiled its revised entry for the Eurovision Song Contest, after the original version was rejected for its perceived political overtones.

Eden Golan will now sing Hurricane, a rewritten version of October Rain, which was thought to reference the 7 October Hamas attacks on Israel.

The soaring, impassioned piano ballad premiered on Israeli TV on Sunday.

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The lyrics now told the story of a woman experiencing a personal crisis, said Israel’s public broadcaster, Kan.

The European Broadcasting Union (EBU), which organises Eurovision, rejected October Rain last month.

Lyrics such as “There’s no air left to breathe,” and “They were all good children, each one of them,” were seen as references to the victims of Hamas’s deadly attack, which triggered Israel’s current ground offensive in Gaza.

Kan initially refused to change the song, saying it would prefer to withdraw from the contest – but Israel’s President, Isaac Herzog, later called for “necessary adjustments” to ensure the country could participate.

The broadcaster said: “The president emphasised that at this time in particular, when those who hate us seek to push aside and boycott the state of Israel from every stage, Israel must sound its voice with pride and its head high and raise its flag in every world forum, especially this year.”

Musically, Hurricane is the same song as October Rain – but the lyrics are now more general, with phrases such as “Every day, I’m losing my mind” and “I’m still broken from this hurricane.”

As expected, the phrase “October rain” has been excised completely.

Another significant change is the word “flowers” has been replaced by “powers”. According to the Israel Hayom newspaper, the former is often used to denote Israel’s war fatalities.

The spoken-word section, which Golan delivers in Hebrew, has also been altered. The original references to poisoned air and dead children have been switched for the more generic: “No need for big words, only prayers. Even if it’s hard to see, you always leave me one small light.”

As the song was revealed, Golan, 20, addressed the difficulty of representing Israel at such a politically sensitive time.

“I ended up in a not simple year,” she told the Times of Israel.

“But on the other hand, I even more so want to represent the country this year, because of its meaning – it has a totally different significance.

“And we can bring everything we’re feeling, and everything the country is going through, in those three minutes. To speak through the song to the world.”

Humanitarian cost

Israel has won Euorvision four times since its first appearance, in 1973. Last year, it was represented by pop sensation Noa Kirel, whose acrobatic dance number Unicorn placed third.

But the country has faced serious opposition to its participation in this year’s contest, due to concerns over the humanitarian cost of the war in Gaza.

Last week, Belgium’s French-speaking Culture Minister, Benedicte Linard, called for Israel to be banned as long as the war continued.

“Just like Russia has been excluded from competitions and Eurovision following its invasion of Ukraine, Israel should be excluded until it puts an end to its flagrant violations of international law, which are causing thousands of victims, especially children,” she wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

‘Anti-Israel bias’

Israel insists its ground offensive is in line with international law. Its military has repeatedly said it goes out of its way to try to avoid harming civilians.

Ms Linard also told parliament on Wednesday she would ask public broadcaster Radio-télévision belge de la Communauté française (RTBF), which is organising Belgium’s entry to Eurovision, to voice the concerns to the EBU.

Her Flemish counterpart, Benjamin Dalle, said an Israeli suspension would be appropriate while so many Palestinian civilians were suffering, according to Flemish broadcaster VRT.

Musicians in several countries have also called for Israel to be suspended from the contest. Before he was selected to represent the UK, Olly Alexander also endorsed a statement accusing Israel of genocide.

An Israeli official later told the UK’s Daily Telegraph newspaper the arguments were “absurd” and accused Alexander and his fellow signatories of “anti-Israel bias”.

Israel launched an air and ground campaign in Gaza after Hamas’s 7 October attacks, in which about 1,200 people were killed and 253 taken hostage.

More than 30,800 people have been killed in Gaza since then, the territory’s Hamas-run Health Ministry says.