Thanks to Netta “Toy” Barzilai winning the 2018 Eurovision Song Contest, Israel gets to host the 2019 contest. But can an Israeli singer earn the trophy again?

The process of choosing Israel’s representative from a field of 60 hopefuls began the night of November 24 with the first group of auditions on “The Next Star for Eurovision.”

One of the most poignant moments in the high-ratings TV show was the performance of The Shalva Band, comprised of young musicians with physical and intellectual disabilities.

The band was formed by in 2005 as a professional outlet for talented clients of Jerusalem-based Shalva, the Israel Association for the Care and Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities.

Current lead singers Dina Samte and Anael Khalifa are blind.
Khalifa’s rendition of The Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun” knocked the socks off the audience and an all-star panel of judges: Eurovision 2005 contestant Shiri Maimon, fresh from her Broadway gig in “Chicago”; Harel Skaat, Israel’s 2010 Eurovision representative; singer-songwriters Keren Peles and Asaf Amdurski; and pop duo Static & Ben-El.

Below is an English-subtitled clip of the band’s heartwarming pre-show interview with “Next Star” hosts Assi Azar and Rotem Sella, and their stellar performance that advanced them to the next round of auditions.

The Shalva Band Auditions for The Rising Star – with English Subtitles

Watch the entire broadcast of The Shalva Band להקת שלוה on Israel's The Rising Star. הכוכב הבא.Footage courtesy of mako

Posted by Shalva National Children's Center on Wednesday, 28 November 2018

A back-to-back Eurovision win for Israel has actually happened before: Izhar Cohen and Alphabeta for “A-ba-ni-bi” in 1978 and Milk and Honey for “Hallelujah” in 1979.

These are the other Israeli Eurovision contenders who qualified in the first audition show, and the songs they sang:

Danielle Mazuz, 27, a backup singer and dancer for Netta Barzilai (Pharrell Williams’ “Happy”)

Ofri Kalfon, 16 (“Le’esof” by Yuval Dayan)

Shachar Edwi, 20 (“Wikipedia” by Hanan Ben-Ari and Keren Peles)

Nadav Phillips, 18 (Whitney Houston’s “I Have Nothing” by D. Foster and L. Jenner)

Daniel Barzilai (no relation to Netta), 26 (“Osher Le-Daka” by Uri Ben-Ari and Eitan Darmon)

Watch this spot as the field narrows closer to the May 2019 contest in Tel Aviv.