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XTRA Debate: Where should Israel host Eurovision 2019

Jerusalem, Tel Aviv or Eilat… After a few busy months where we weren’t even sure if Israel would actually host, we’ve now got to the stage of picking a host city. Three cities are still left. In this Monday’s XTRA Debate, we take a look at the options. Where should Israel host the Eurovision Song Contest 2019? Jerusalem, Eilat or Tel Aviv?

Eilat: Hangars in the port

We’re starting off with the most remarkable bid of the three. In the absolute south of Israel, the coastal city wants to host Eurovision in two hangars. It pretty much fits in with previous examples of cities wanting to host Eurovision in a massive tent. To comply with EBU rules, the two hangars should be connected to a hall. That way, the Green Room, the actual venue and the press room will all be connected.

The small problem of not having enough hotel rooms for both fans and delegations can also be solved, according to the Eilat city council. All delegations will have their own space on cruise ships in the port. They can travel from and to the venue by boat.

The city of Eilat is used to dealing with large crowds. In recent years, Eilat has evolved into one of Israel’s most popular tourist destinations. The nature near the city has turned into somewhat of a tourist destination. And beside the day trips, the beach is probably the biggest attraction. With their Eurovision 2019 bid, the city hopes to establish itself as a prime tourist destination once and for all.

Jerusalem: What Netta wanted

Immediately after Netta won the Eurovision Song Contest in May, she shouted out that the world would be welcomed in Jerusalem. When Tel Aviv then seemingly didn’t want to put a bid in, the case seemed clear. It would only be a matter of weeks before the Israeli broadcaster would announce Jerusalem as their host city.

Due to quite a few circumstances, however, the city now seems to have lost its status as frontrunner. Their venue is still the biggest of the three, with the Pais Arena being able to host over 15,000 people.

The most important of the aforementioned circumstances is the opinion of the Eurovision organisers. After the Argentinian FA cancelled an international football friendly, rumour had it that this happened under pressure of organisations who did not want major international events to take place in Jerusalem. The fear of countries withdrawing from a Jerusalem held Eurovision Song Contest led to organisers supposedly hoping for a city other than Jerusalem.

Besides the political struggles that might’ve come with Jerusalem, there’s a little transport issue as well. Eurovision regulations demand an airport to be close to the city, in order to give international fans a fair chance of getting to the contest easily. That is however not the case in Jerusalem. The nearest international airport is in… Tel Aviv.

Tel Aviv: An (un)expected frontrunner

When Netta won, she wasn’t the only one claiming it had to be Jerusalem. The Mayor of Tel Aviv agreed with her. He soon said his city would not be bidding to host the Eurovision Song Contest 2019.

Soon after, KAN released the list of cities bidding to host. To the surprise of some, the name of Tel Aviv appeared on the list. After the Jerusalem struggles, this seemed to be the ‘next best’ option. The city was one of the cities fans across the world were hoping for. Tel Aviv is responsible for, what has become, the biggest Eurovision pre-party of the season. During that event, the city shows the fan community why they are the ‘party city’ of Israel.

Tel Aviv managed to keep surprising us all. Not their indoor Menora Mivtachim Arena, but the Tel Aviv Convention Center, Pavillion 2 was the venue they picked. It was certainly unexpected, as hardly anyone outside of Israel knew the venue before choosing it. The arena can hold 10,000 people – just enough for the EBU.

Nick’s thoughts: Tel Aviv

After this past summer, there’s only one thing I’m hoping for. That one thing is an end to all of the drama surrounding next year’s contest. Funding, no funding. Shabbat, no shabbat. I hope we can finally put an end to all of that and that we can have a host city without any issues. And that leaves just one option for me: Tel Aviv.

Crossing both other options off the list is my first task here. I’ll start with Jerusalem. The city really wanted to host and the politicians supported them. There is however a steady movement against involving Jerusalem in such events. It led to calls for boycotts. Politically, it is the most sensitive city of the three. That definitely is not what I’m looking for next year. Basically, I feel choosing Jerusalem would create more of a risk of withdrawing countries or other drama than any of the other two. Add to that that it is the only of the three cities without their own airport facilities and I’m quite convinced that this would not be Israel’s best option.

On to Eilat then. I’d doubt we’d get many political struggles with Eilat, but they have a much bigger problem. Their venue is not even ready. No, even stronger: Their venue consists of temporary hangars next to a temporary hall with a temporary roof and temporary seats. I would love for Eilat to host the contest someday. But first, let them build a permanent venue for 15,000 people and then we’ll talk again.

It leaves me with Tel Aviv. I wasn’t quite convinced of a city hosting when they in fact didn’t even want to at first. Nevertheless, it has now clearly emerged as the only option for me. It has the stability of a good, international airport. It also has very good train connections to other cities in Israel, if people would want to see more. The convention center also allows for all venues to be close together. Perhaps it even offers space for EuroClub and EuroVillage – an extra bonus. But the biggest point here is the financial side of the business. After weeks and months of funding issues and financial struggles, the Mayor of Tel Aviv said that if his city would host, the council would pay for the venue. That would limit KAN’s costs considerably. That makes Tel Aviv the most logical host city of the three on offer. 

Oliver’s thoughts: process of elimination

Nick has done a fantastic job outlining the trio of options that are still in the running to host Eurovision 2018. Of course, officials from all three locations say they have it in the bag. Until the grand announcement is made, I’m sure the chatter and rumours will only get louder. However, after breaking down each option there are definite pros and problematic qualities.

Eliat: Unconventional, yet innovative?

Eilat would definitely be an interesting choice. In one sense, this would be the best choice. The unconventional nature of hangars and boats would push the boundaries of the ways in which the contest can be hosted. It is one step further and almost a homage to B&W Hallerne, a former industrial complex, which hosted the contest in 2014. 

It could almost give a glimmer of hope for countries who haven’t previously won. Especially in the event a geographically smaller nation won, a port hangar with added cruise ships would be a perfect example of how the EBU and host nation can think outside the box. Israel 2019 could prove that a big arena is not a pre-requisite of hosting. However, I can see practical issues. For artists, the contest is incredibly stressful. I’m not sure if seasickness can affect the ability to sing/perform…

I am sure at least one act, HOD or media organisations will cry foul post-contest!

Jerusalem: Too good to be true?

Just because Netta wants something it doesn’t mean she can, or should get it!

Going by KAN’s own criteria for selecting the host city, the venue should hold between 8,000 and 12,00 people. With a capacity of 15,000 the Pais arena seems to be too big. Admittedly, this isn’t a catastrophe. But there can be logistical and technical problems in being too big. How do you fill the space? More tickets for the audience? A bigger green room? More advanced tech and staging? Some of these options can quite rapidly increase the cost for the contest. Considering the ongoing issues with funding between KAN and the government, I doubt increasing or overshooting the budget is on the agenda… 

Tel Aviv: That’s what you call a perfect host?

Based on the above criteria, it seems on paper like Tel Aviv could be the perfect choice. Somewhat of an unexpected underdog, Tel Aviv has the opportunity to fuse the best concepts of Eliat and Jerusalem. Along with the infrastructure of the venue itself, Tel Aviv is a popular tourist destination. Simply put, this means it is a host city ready to go. It also offers a chance to avoid potential international political implications which could muddy the purpose of the contest.

Sean’s thoughts: Jerusalem

Personally, I believe that Jerusalem is a perfectly capable host for the 2019 contest. We need to remember that Jerusalem has hosted the contest twice before, and both were quality shows. I also believe that the “it’s unsafe” argument for not hosting it in Jerusalem could be applied to any city in Israel, and also to cities that have hosted recently, such as Kyiv. I’m sure that wherever it is hosted, Israel will provide a good contest. But if Israel wants to host in Jerusalem, and can promise another safe contest like they have in the past, it should be hosted in Jerusalem.

Previous XTRA Debates:

What are your thoughts ? Which city would be the most suitable as host for the Eurovision Song Contest 2019? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below or on social media at @ESCXTRA!

Nick van Lith

I'm one of the founding members of ESCXTRA.com. Seven years after the start, I'm proud that I am now the Deputy Editor-in-Chief of this wonderful website. When I'm not doing Eurovision stuff, you should be able to find me teaching German to kids...
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