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February 4, 2019 3:32 pm

Israeli Culture Minister Calls on Eurovision Producers to Accommodate Shalva Band’s Shabbat Observance

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The Shalva Band during its audition on Israel’s ‘Rising Star’ singing competition. Photo: Screenshot.

Israeli Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev asked the producers of Eurovision on Monday to accommodate the Shalva Band and its observance of Shabbat if it was chosen to represent Israel in the annual singing competition.

The Shalva Band, an eight-person group comprised of young adult musicians with disabilities, is one of four finalists on the “Rising Star” singing contest competing to represent Israel in Eurovision, which is set to be held in Tel Aviv in May. The band is considering backing out of the competition because three of the band’s members observe Shabbat and are concerned that if chosen to compete in Eurovision they would be forced to work on the Jewish day of rest, The Algemeiner previously reported. The final round of Eurovision is broadcast live on a Saturday night, but participants must take part in rehearsals during the day.

In a letter to the European Broadcasting Union, which produces Eurovision, Regev advocated for the band, saying, “I strongly urge you, true to the spirit we all believe in, to reconsider an exception to your rule and to enable the Shalva Band, if it wins the local contest, to participate according to their freedom of conscience and without violating their most sacred religious practices.”

“The question at stake is not hypothetical but is rather a matter of principle, underlying the very foundations of equal opportunity and true acceptance of the concept of diversity that the Eurovision Song Contest proudly symbolizes,” she added. “All members of the Shalva Band are extremely talented people with special needs and complex disabilities, who have thrived and excelled in bringing their special and most gifted voices to an ever-larger audiences while exemplifying the great values of equality, human dignity and diversity.”

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“As you are well aware, the State of Israel, as any other democracy in the world, believes in the spirit of the Eurovision, which is a wonderful stage for the musical talents of all, regardless of race, gender, nationality or religious belief,” she said. “I am thus greatly concerned about the implications of strictly abiding by the rule of live performance on stage since it effectively prevents observant Jews, in Israel and elsewhere, from ever participating in the Eurovision Song Contest. Surely, you understand that such a result is the complete opposite of the lofty, humane and inclusive democratic spirit, which has made the Eurovision Song Contest such a powerful cultural phenomenon worldwide.”

Shalva requested to pre-record its rehearsal to avoid working on Shabbat, but Israel’s Walla reported that EBU said all performances must be done live. The report added that Keshet, the TV channel that airs “Rising Star,” said the possibility of sending only the non-religious Shalva members to compete in Eurovision was not an option for the band.

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