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After facing criticism, Israel has revised its entry for the Eurovision Song Contest

Pro-Palestinian supporters wave flags and carry placards during a march in central Stockholm last month in which demonstrators demanded Israel be excluded from the Eurovision Song Contest.
Fredrik Persson
TT News Agency/AFP via Getty Images
Pro-Palestinian supporters wave flags and carry placards during a march in central Stockholm last month in which demonstrators demanded Israel be excluded from the Eurovision Song Contest.

TEL AVIV, Israel – After addressing objections to its title and lyrics, Israel's revised entry for this year's Eurovision song contest in Sweden was scheduled to be unveiled Sunday in a broadcast on Israeli television.

The song, performed by Eden Golan, has been renamed "Hurricane" after its original lyrics and song title, "October Rain," attracted criticism and controversy for appearing to refer to the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attack on Israel, in which Israel says more than 1,200 people were killed and 240 taken hostage.

The lyrics — which originally included the lines "Hours and hours and flowers/Life is no game for the cowards" — are now part of a romantic ballad with lyrics such as "Dancing in the storm, I got nothing to hide/Take it out and leave the world behind/Baby, promise me you hold me again/I'm still taken from this hurricane."

Amid the war in Gaza between Israel and Hamas, several countries participating in Eurovision, including Iceland and Finland, had previously called for boycotts due to Israel's participation, but ultimately relented and will take part in this year's competition.

The European Broadcasting Union, which oversees the competition, initially disqualified "October Rain" after determining that it contained political references. But it changed course this past week, saying that "after careful scrutiny," it had decided to allow Israel to participate in this year's Eurovision, which it called "a competition of broadcasters and not of governments."

Israel's public broadcaster, Kan, which is responsible for selecting the country's official song entry, first insisted that it would preserve the original lyrics. However, Israel's president, Isaac Herzog, pressured the broadcaster to allow changes. During a Feb. 25 speech, Herzog noted the importance of Israel's participation in Eurovision, watched by hundreds of millions of fans around the world.

"I think our participation in Eurovision is very important. I supported the president's view that believed our non-participation could lead to non-participation in other sporting and cultural events as well," said Yoav Tzafir, the director and producer of Israel's delegation to Eurovision.

"However, we had a red line," Tzafir added. "We were not willing to send a shallow pop song. We changed the lyrics, but the song remains a powerful and moving ballad that speaks of heartache. Personal heartache, but a song that Israelis can also relate to this year."

Israel, which began participating in the Eurovision contest in 1973, has won the competition four times, most recently in 2018. The competition is beloved by Israelis, who make it one of the most-watched broadcasts every year.

According to odds tables, which seek to predict the winners of the competition, Israel is currently ranked eighth out of 37 participating countries. However, that position may change with the unveiling of the revised song.

When asked if the original song was political, as claimed by the European Broadcasting Union, Tzafir said, "The original song was not political in my eyes. It did include the word October; if that bothered them, then we solved it. We stand fully behind the song that was approved and believe in its chances to excel in the competition."

Copyright 2024 NPR

Itay Stern

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