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May 18, 2019 1:56 pm

On Eurovision Final Day, Israelis Cheer

avatar by Reuters and Algemeiner Staff

Performers from countries that qualified to the final of the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest gather on stage at the end of the first semi final session in Tel Aviv, Israel May 15, 2019. Photo: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun.

As singers made last-minute preparations for the Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv on Saturday, Israeli police threw a high-security cordon around the venue to head off possible attacks.

Armed police stood at elevated positions around the Expo Tel Aviv complex, with patrol cars and police motorcyclists at junctions as fans passed through metal detectors and multiple security checks. Farther south, near Jaffa, an area of beach was sealed off for the “Eurovision Village” spectators pavilion.

The 41-country international singing competition has been a focus of pro-Palestinian calls to stay away from this year’s event, in protest against Israeli policies in the West Bank and Gaza.

No finalists or broadcasters have pulled out, but the organizers also have security inside the hall in case activists try to disrupt the live televised final on Saturday night or performers hold an on-stage protest.

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Israel says the calls to boycott the competition because it is being held in Israel are discriminatory and antisemitic, which the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement denies.

The Netherlands’ Duncan Laurence is the bookies’ favorite to win the glass microphone trophy, sitting at 3/4 according to Oddschecker on Saturday.

Australia’s entry has also crept up the favorites list, helped by a spectacular stage show performed by Kate Miller-Heidke in a full ball gown atop a moving pole.

Israelis enjoying their weekend in Tel Aviv said they were proud to be hosting the event. “I’m very excited, it’s great that it’s come to Tel Aviv,” said Alan Liferow, 58, an Israeli accountant from Ein Sarid. “It’s showing Israel in a very positive light.”

Yafa Levy, 61, from Ramat Hasharon, said most people did not care about possible boycotts. “With all that is happening against Eurovision and Israel, the show goes on,” she said.

There were fears for the event in early May, when Israel and Gaza-based Palestinian militants engaged in three days of fighting, including hundreds of rockets launched from Gaza and Israeli air strikes into the Palestinian enclave.

Israeli newspapers said Israel had extensively deployed its Iron Dome aerial defense system in advance of the contest.

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