TV review: Eden took me up to Eurovision heaven

It’s always been good, but this year was special


Eden Golan from Israel enters the stage during the opening ceremony of The Eurovision Song Contest 2024 Grand Final in Malmo, Sweden. (Photo by Martin Sylvest Andersen/Getty Images)

The Eurovision Song Contest, alongside Miss World and the annual repeat of Thoroughly Modern Millie were my childhood television mega-highlights. Miss World got me thoroughly hooked on geography: as I sat there on the floor in front of the telly with the pull-out from The Sun newspaper listing all the girls and their countries, I would marvel at the names of far-flung exotic sounding places, looking those nations up in an atlas. I can still list all the countries of the world and name their capitals.

Miss World has rightly become outdated, and the advent of online streaming means I can watch my favourite films any old time. But the one wonderfully awful, essential television zenith of my year remains the Eurovision Song Contest.

We would all watch as a family, me on the floor with my pull-out guide and maps and a pen to record my own scores, Dad in his armchair, always falling asleep even then, and Mum on the sofa with my brother and sister.

When Israel came on, my mother, who is from Tel Aviv, would literally scream with excitement making my dad sit bolt upright in terror from his slumber, and the rest of us tingle with the thrill that little Israel was appearing on what felt like the world stage. Nobody was allowed to make a sound from my mother’s first scream to her wildly enthusiastic exhortations at the end.

We listened avidly to the voting from each country, huddled around the television as though we were waiting for updates of something as monumental as a world war. When the votes came in from Tel Aviv it was like we were making contact with a remote satellite that once a year was in alignment with Earth and finally reachable.

It was so exciting and validating to have Israel in the Eurovision Song Contest. I knew Israel wasn’t in Europe but that it was surrounded by enemies and had been “taken in” by Europe: like a bullied child finding a lovely new set of more like-minded friends and embracing them wholeheartedly. It was so joyous. It gave me a warm and fuzzy feeling.

This year’s calls by Israel’s seemingly ever-growing armies of haters upset me deeply. For if Israel had been told by the the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) to sling its Magen David and go sit on the naughty step next to Russia, it really might have started to feel like the end of times, as though the old childhood bullies, annoyed that new friends had been found by its victim, had finally and spitefully succeeded in turning them hostile too. But, impressively, the EBU stood firm. Israel would go to the ball. And it happily got through to the final.

Of course I always knew Eurovision was political but it was gently so. Terry Wogan’s voice is still in my ear laughing as Greece and Cyprus gave each other 12 points. How innocent those days seem, those days when you couldn’t quite predict who would give Israel points and who wouldn’t…

Eden Golan’s performance on Saturday was genuinely stunning, brave and so dignified. The talent and the integrity of her conduct on and off stage has been phenomenal in light of the criticisms, ostracising and bullying by some of the other contestants, and the death threats she received. An inspiration.

The nadir of the evening for me had to be Ireland’s “queer witch” number. It was awful and so was their performer’s open hostility to Israel. How satisfying that they finished below Eden.

Predictably, Israel scored poorly from a lot of the other countries’ jury votes, although 11 of the 37 countries did give Israel some points. And then what a thrilling moment it was when the people’s votes came in!

Three hundred and twenty three points, second only to Croatia who scored 337, and much higher than winners Switzerland who scored 226. It was a surprisingly affirming and validating evening in times of what can feel like endless and overwhelming hatred, often here in our very own country (our own country which scored….nil points from the public!)

Israel’s appearance made Eurovision so much more than merely a television zenith for me. Am Yisrael Chai.

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