Israeli pop star Noa Kirel qualified for the grand finale of 2023 Eurovision in Liverpool on Tuesday after a dynamic performance of her song “Unicorn” in the semifinal.
The 22-year-old songstress took the stage hours after Israel launched its Shield and Arrow operation in response to rockets from the Gaza Strip. Some feared it might impact the voting, which this year was done exclusively by viewers rather than judges.
In the 15-strong semifinal, Kirel performed ninth. The video postcard announcing her entry featured Kirel standing at the top of Masada, an ancient fortification 1,300 feet above the Dead Sea.
Kirel, who boasts over a million social-media followers, urged people around the world to vote for her. Wonder Woman actress Gal Gadot joined the efforts, posting about Kirel’s performance on her Instagram stories.
Shortly after qualifying, Kirel increased her odds at winning the song competition, with bookmakers placing her sixth favorite — up one place from the day before. “Thank you my unicorns, we did it,” the singer wrote.
Also qualifying from the same semifinal were singers from Croatia, Moldova, Switzerland, Finland, the Czech Republic, Portugal, Serbia, Norway and Sweden. Those qualifying from two semifinals will compete in the final on Saturday.
“Unicorn” was written by Doron Medalie, who also penned Netta Barzilai’s 2018 Eurovision entry “Toy,” which went on to win the contest. Medalie said he wanted to “put Judaism at the forefront” when writing “Unicorn,” to make it an anthem of empowerment.
Last year, Israeli contestant Michael Ben David failed to qualify for the final, making it the first time in eight years that Israel didn’t get to that round. This prompted Israel to end the tradition of choosing a representative via a talent reality TV competition. Kirel was picked via an internal selection committee.