Phewwwww. Eurovision in Israel is finally over. Our ears can come back out of their hiding place and we can stop enthusing about the terrible music that we’ve been all been subjected to this past week. Oh, and we can of course congratulate Dutch winner Duncan Laurence.

Don’t get us wrong – we loved (almost) every minute of Euromania. The show was spectacular, our local singers absolutely rocked and the hot tourists were, well, hot.

There were, however, some pretty bizarre moments as well, together with some that we’re really hoping to forget. Time to take out the earplugs and look back at the most memorable moments the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest had to offer.

  1. Madonna takes Israel by storm, and not in a good way

“Will she or won’t she?” was the question on everybody’s lips for the past few weeks. The melodrama surrounding Madonna’s arrival and performance in the Eurovision final on Saturday night kept fans on edge as conflicting news reports regularly updated on the Queen of Pop’s supposed participation in the global event.

Cries of joys could be heard across the country when it was finally confirmed that Madonna will indeed perform, but these unfortunately were replaced with tears once she actually took the stage.

Not only was the live rendition of hit single “Like A Prayer” less than in tune, to put it mildly, but Madonna’s backup dancers caused quite a stir when they showcased the Israeli and Palestinian flags, going against all Eurovision regulations. Not the grand finale everyone was hoping for.

  1. Shalva Band rocks the world

In a case diametrically opposed to that of Madonna, the Shalva Band’s performance was simply out of this world.

The group, comprised of young people with disabilities, had people around the globe sniffling into their tissues with their beautiful rendition of “A Million Dreams” during the interval on Thursday night’s second semifinals.

Proving once again that nothing can stand in the way of talent and encompassing the contest’s “Dare to Dream” motto, the band had many Israelis wishing that they hadn’t dropped out of the competition to represent us in the Eurovision because, let’s face it, they could easily have won.

  1. An absolutely spectacular show

Here in Israel, we’re pretty amazed at how spectacular the week-long show was – dodgy music aside, it was truly magnificent.

From the glamorous orange carpet opening the whole event to the grand finale on Saturday night, audiences were kept entertained throughout with wonderful sets, great hosts and an array of sideline shows that managed to combine Israeli spirit and international standards. Douzepoints.

  1. Skeptical Israelis eat their hats

Following on the heels of the above point, this past week left Israelis dumbstruck.

As soon as the fabulous Netta Barzilai (more on that later) brought Eurovision to Israel after winning the contest last year, local skeptics were out in droves questioning Israel’s ability to put on a worthy show, citing budgetary, cultural, social and security issues as insurmountable hurdles.

But the Kan broadcasting authority in charge of the event proved every last critic wrong. With contestants singing atop massive stilts or in what seemed to be full-on, on-stage showers, creativity knew no bounds and the production was hailed by many to be the best Eurovision show in living memory. Hats off to them.

  1. Dana International’s kiss cam

Israel’s ultimate diva, Dana International, outdid herself yet again, spreading love, acceptance and diversity in her first semifinals performance on Tuesday night.

Singing Bruno Mars’ “Just the Way You Are,” International preached love for all as a kiss cam roving around the audience lingered on loving couples of all sexes kissing and embracing one another.

Audiences worldwide praised the Israeli Eurovision’s promotion of the message that love is love, both in International’s sensational performance and the host of other LGBTQ-worthy moments throughout the week.

  1. Kobi Marimi’s emotional performance

Israeli contestant Kobi Marimi had it pretty hard. Ever since he was chosen to represent Israel at the Eurovision, critics were nastily suggesting that he wasn’t the right choice, that his song was terrible and that in general he was a great disappointment.

And while Marimi did only make it to the modest 23rd spot, he did it with absolute grace and charm. At the end of his powerful rendition of his ballad, “Home,” Marimi broke down in tears for a moment, seemingly overwhelmed by the magnitude of the event and perhaps even with relief that the whole ordeal was finally over. A real sweetheart.

  1. Israel steals the spotlight in the Eurovision ‘postcards’

It’s a Eurovision tradition for the host country to showcase itself in “postcards”–short video clips – in which participating hopefuls give a sneak peek of their songs before their live performances in the contest.

The stunning landscapes, cities and monuments of Israel in the background stole the show as the contestants sang, shimmied and twirled. How many places do you recognize?

  1. Netta Barzilai, Israel’s other Wonder Woman
Eurovision 2018 winner Netta Barzilai performs during a rehearsal ahead of the 2019 contest in Tel Aviv. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

It’s been a hell of a year for Netta Barzilai, last year’s Eurovision winner. All the craziness reached its peak with Barzilai’s performance of her hit song “Toy” this week, reminding everyone just how amazing she is – not only as a performer but as a positive role model for young girls in Israel and abroad. You go, girl!

  1. Tel Aviv’s party mode

As anyone who was in Tel Aviv this past week could tell you, Israel’s party capital was in even greater celebratory mode than usual.

Street parties, concerts and brimming bars aside, the streets were packed with happy locals and tourists enjoying what the city has to offer around the clock. One highlight of this party week was White Night, an all-night event that usually takes place at the end of June but which was brought forward for everyone to enjoy in international style.

10. A fabulous music cover goes viral

Yonatan Razel is an Israeli-American Orthodox singer who enjoys great success with audiences of all backgrounds, including, it seems, Croatians.

In an impromptu moment that was caught on camera and went viral, musical star Jacques Houdek, who mentored this year’s Croatian contestant, performed a beautiful rendition of Razel’s “Katonti” in perfect Hebrew in front of a bewildered audience. Razel himself was also touched by the gesture, sending a public message to Houdek, wishing his delegation the best of luck and mumbling in a bit of Croatian.