An Israeli band has dropped out of the Eurovision Song Contest because it would force some of its observant members to perform on Shabbos.
The Shalva group says Wednesday it’s quitting Israel’s qualifying competition after the Eurovision organizers said it would make no exceptions for Israel’s ultimate winner. The competition is held on a Motzei Shabbos, and the compulsory rehearsal falls on the Shabbos.
Shalva, which has several members who are blind or have Down syndrome, has become a fan favorite and serious contender to sing Israel’s entry in the May competition. Israeli critics say the Eurovision seems tolerant of all besides Orthodox Jews.
Israel’s culture minister, Miri Regev, appealed to Eurovision to be more flexible but reportedly was rebuffed.
“The question at stake is not hypothetical but is rather a matter of principle, underlying the very foundations of equal opportunity and true acceptance of the concept of diversity that the Eurovision Song Contest proudly symbolizes,” she wrote in a letter sent Monday to Eurovision organizers.
Eurovision said it could not make a final decision on how to handle the Shalva Band until and if it was named Israel’s selection. The band reportedly decided to drop out rather than spoil the chances for other competitors.
Last month, Israeli pop star Omer Adam turned down an offer to perform at Eurovision over Shabbos.
I work at the @WhiteHouse & travel all over the Arab/Muslim world as a Sabbath observer, with full respect & understanding from all – never an issue from anyone. It is a shame some places & organizations don’t accommodate religious observances. (2/2) https://t.co/gyoGQOcb0v
— Jason D. Greenblatt (@jdgreenblatt45) February 7, 2019