TEL AVIV – More than 20,000 jubilant Israelis descended on Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square Monday night for a free victory concert by Netta Barzilai to celebrate her landslide triumph at the 63rd Eurovision song contest.
“This is a great moment for me, for the [Israeli] delegation and for the country. I am happy that we managed to create a reason for joy in a country that does not have a lot of reasons to celebrate,” Netta, who goes by her first name only, said upon her arrival back in the country a few hours before.
“We are all hoarse, we celebrated all night and we didn’t sleep,” added Netta. “I want to thank all the amazing people who accompanied me throughout this past half year, they never lost hope and promised me all along the way that victory was ours. A lot of congratulations to us and all of Israel.”
הופעה מיוחדת לנוסעים בטיסה pic.twitter.com/jqWjOdRTgU
— EL AL אל על (@EL_AL_ISRAEL) May 14, 2018
Netta sang her smash-hit “Toy” along with the crowd, many of whom were waving Israeli flags and dancing wildly.
Spontaneous celebrations of Netta’s Eurovision victory 🎉 in Tel
Aviv. It’s 1:30 AM and for Israelis tomorrow, Sunday is a working day. And yet- the celebration is unstoppable 🇱🇱 pic.twitter.com/7kWTNWPZBe
— Idit Rosenzweig-Abu (@iditabu) May 13, 2018
“Tel Aviv, I love you! Look what we did together!” a teary Netta shouted to the audience. “Look at everyone together! We have such a great reason to be happy!”
Earlier in the day, very different scenes took place in Jerusalem and Gaza, with the relocation of the U.S. embassy and the violent riots on the border.
More than 50 Gazans were killed in what was the bloodiest day for the coastal enclave since the 2014 war during attempts to breach the border.
But Tel Aviv was in a festive mood as it celebrated the first win in two decades since transgender Dana International made headlines around the world when she won Eurovision in 1998.
Netta, too, is a darling of the LGBT community.
“Some of my team that takes care of me and holds me up through some hard times are part of the [LGBT] community and I am nothing without them,” she said at a press briefing after winning.
She added: “I will be at the next pride [parade] in Tel Aviv. … You better come to Tel Aviv.”
Barzilai bagged a sweeping victory at the Eurovision with 529 points, with the song “Fuego” sung by Eleni Foureira from Cyprus, coming in second with 436 points. Austria came in third with 342 points.
The video for “Toy” has over 50 million views.