On the very night that I heard someone say that Israel is racist, a 19-year-old IDF soldier will become the first Ethiopian-Israeli to represent Israel at the international Eurovision Song Contest which will take place in Holland in May.
Eden Alene’s presence should put to rest any notion of Israel being an apartheid state. The Jerusalem native won both the judges’ votes and a popular vote from viewers across Israel who were watching the final of The Next Star reality show.
“It is an insane honor to represent my country,” she said. “It is amazing that an Ethiopian is doing it for the first time.”
Alene won Israel’s X-Factor reality show in 2018 and has released a few singles since then, however, she has not gained as much exposure as she likely will now.
“The months I spent competing on The Next Star have turned me from a girl with a dream into a seasoned singer,” she said. “I want to thank everyone who voted for me and I promise to do my best to represent Israel with honor at the Eurovision.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulated Alene on Twitter, writing: “Eden, you are a champion! We trust you to bring Eurovision back home. Good luck!”
At 19, Alene was actually the oldest of the four contestants who made it to the season’s final show. Ella-lee Lahav, 16, Gaya Shaki, 17 and Orr Amrami Brockman, also 17, were the other contestants who led the pack of highly talented participants in season seven.
Born and raised in Jerusalem, Alene sang for two years with the mixed Jewish and Arab YMCA Jerusalem Youth Choir. Her parents, both of Ethiopian descent, immigrated to Israel before she was born. Alene lives with her mother in Kiryat Gat.
The Next Star is Israel’s most-watched singing competition and has served as an amazing platform for diversity. Last year, the Shalva Band — a group of young adults with special needs — sailed to the finals. They dropped out of the contest, however, because the schedule of Eurovision would have required them to violate the Sabbath and a few band members are observant Jews.
Since then, the Shalva Band (a program of the Shalva National Center, which we support) has received international exposure and is changing the way the world sees people with special needs. They performed at the Eurovision semifinal last year in Tel Aviv and were called by many the “true winners” during the event. The video clip of their performance went viral. Band members even met U.S. President Donald Trump when they played at the Israeli-American Council (IAC) convention in Florida in December.
Israelis will have the chance to vote on the song that Alene will sing to represent the nation at the 2020 Eurovision. Israel’s Netta Barzilai won Eurovision in 2018 and with that the honor to host the contest in Israel the following year. With Alene, Israel is hoping to bring the contest back to the Jewish state again next year.
Photo courtesy of Instagram