ISRAEL – Interior Minister Arye Deri said on Wednesday that he will regretfully tolerate next year’s Eurovision song contest conducting activities on Shabbat. But he said in an interview with Ynet that the demand of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) to allow free entry to participants and visitors was more problematic.
The minister said the fact – despite his personal opposition – that “movie theaters and cafés and restaurants – and the Eurovision – operate on Shabbat hurts me as a Jew. But I know where I live.”
Deri also said allowing the competition to go forward – and to operate on Saturday – was not dependent on him. Pushed to elaborate by the interviewer, the minister said it wasn’t fair to compare the Eurovision with the construction of a bridge in Tel Aviv, which was postponed last month after outrage from haredi lawmakers about work done on Saturday.
“You can’t compare the bridge to Eurovision,” he said. “I’m not prepared for Shabbat to become a work day and a shopping day in Israel. The people who are hurt are the lowest classes in society, who have to work seven days a week and become servants.”
Deri was reacting in part to reports this week of a letter sent by the EBU to the Israeli government with a list of conditions for next year’s competition. Among the conditions is a requirement to allow and support work on the competition all week long – including Saturday. The list also reportedly calls for the host country to allow entry to all participants and visitors regardless of their political opinions. The EBU said Tuesday that the missive was “a typical letter we send every year, regardless of country.”
But Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said Tuesday that he would not tolerate “these ridiculous demands… those who seek to harm [us] – of course Israel won’t allow them in.” Erdan, who has worked in conjunction with Deri to ban BDS supporters from entering Israel, said he hopes “the prime minister will not accept these delusional conditions.”
Deri also expressed concern Wednesday about free entry to visitors and participants in the contest.
“The State of Israel – our doors are open, there are tons of people who come and go,” Deri told Ynet. “But regardless… if there are security reasons, or people who come to incite against the State of Israel or do things that will damage us – I will act like the most enlightened countries in the world [and not allow them in],” the interior minister said. “Have you ever tried to enter the United States? If there’s a problem, they’ll send you right back on a plane.”
The issue over Eurovision activity on Saturday is thought to be a significant factor in the decision on a host city for next year’s competition.
The EBU is slated to announce the host city this week, and is most likely to do so on Thursday. Holding the contest in Tel Aviv is expected to arouse less ultra-Orthodox opposition to activity and rehearsals held on Saturday.
Many also believe that holding the competition in Tel Aviv will be less politically divisive than in Jerusalem. However, a range of Israeli politicians have said the contest should and must be held in the country’s capital.
While several locations in Israel were discussed to host the 2019 competition, only Jerusalem and Tel Aviv remain in the running.