Eden Golan: Israel’s Eurovision entry determined to perform in the face of death threats

Golan, 20, is both defiant and positive ahead of the contest semifinal on Thursday


Israel's Eurovision entry Eden Golan says she is trying to focus on 'the huge amount of support' she has received rather than the death threats and backlash against her participation in the song contest (Photo: Sarah Louise Bennett)

Eden Golan, Israel’s 2024 Eurovision Song Contest entrant, is "overwhelmed by different emotions” as she attempts to put a brave face on being one of the most controversial contestants in the singing competition’s history.

Talking over Zoom ahead of the semi-finals that will take place on Thursday, Golan, who has a large security detail in tow, isn’t even allowed to disclose whether she is speaking from her hotel room in Malmo, Sweden, such are the security considerations.

Despite being told by Israel’s Shin Bet security agency not to leave her hotel room, on Sunday night Golan, 20, made a surprise appearance to join Malmo’s small Jewish community to mark Yom HaShoah, while her fellow contestants attended Eurovision’s opening gala dinner.

“It was the most important thing for me to be there and it is something that I will never forget,” says Golan, who led the community in singing “Hatikvah”.

“I think it was understandable that I needed to be there. It was important to show what our nation has been through. I wanted to light a candle for our all our beautiful lives, all the lives we have lost. It was a sad day,” the singer says.

She is tight-lipped about how onerous the controversy surrounding her performance has been, from the death threats to which she has been subjected to calls for contestants and viewers to boycott Eurovision this year over Israel’s inclusion. Instead, she says with a showbusiness grin: “I’ve been getting to see Malmo here and there. We have a great security team that has been taking care of me and the entire delegation. I am so happy to be here, it is a crazy honour, especially to show my voice, and Malmo has been treating me well.”

She adds: “I’ve enjoyed performing on stage, I’ve had two rehearsals so far, and I am looking forward to seeing the audience and feeling their energy.” Her first live performance will be at the semi-finals; while entrants from the five biggest financial backers of Eurovision, including the UK, automatically qualify for the final, the rest of the cohort must compete in qualifying rounds.

If Golan gets through with her catchy pop ballad “Hurricane”, then she will qualify to perform at Saturday’s final and the British public will be able to vote for her.

As for the protests against her inclusion in the song contest she says only: “You know, I haven’t seen any and I am not planning to go to any.”

Born in Israel to Russian parents, this is not the singer’s first foray into Eurovision. Golan, who grew up partly in Russia attending an English-speaking school, first performed to thousands at the age of 11 when she was Russia’s representative in the Junior Eurovision Song Contest, finishing fifth. In 2018, she appeared on a Russian version of The Voice and was put into a girl band called The Cosmos Girls, but her family moved back to Israel after the invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

While a star in Russia, she experienced antisemitism there. Reflecting on her time there, she says: “I always felt like an outsider there; I was never really a part of them.”

Eurovision has come under pressure to remove Israel – which has won the competition four times — from the contest this year due to its response to Hamas in Gaza, with critics pointing out Russia was banned after its invasion of Ukraine.

At the weekend, Jean Philip de Tender, the deputy director general of the European Broadcasting Union, which organises the competition, said other members had agreed that Israel should not be thrown out because Israeli public broadcaster Kan had “met all of the obligations” listed in the competition’s rules. The circumstances were different regarding’s Russia’s involvement in the Eurovision competition, de Tender added.

The UK’s entry, Olly Alexander, is one of several Eurovision contestants who in March signed a joint statement calling for “an immediate and lasting ceasefire” in the Israel-Hamas war. In December, he co-signed a separate letter, from LGBTQ+ activist group Voices4 London, that characterised Israel as an “apartheid” state, and claimed it was acting to “ethnically cleanse the land”.

He has, however, rejected calls from another group, Queers for Palestine, to boycott the competition, saying such a move “wouldn’t bring us any closer to our shared goal”. While urging the “safety and security of all civilians in Palestine and Israel”, Alexander also called for “the return of all hostages”.

Commenting on her fellow Eurovision acts, Golan is positive: “I have only met a few of the other contestants and they were super kind, really nice,” she says.

“I am excited to meet more of them. I hadn’t had any nasty comments — or at least not to my face.

“I try not to get into [the backlash to Israel’s participation] because I believe in good energy and good people. I am focusing on the huge amount of support I have had. Being united by music is the slogan of Eurovision and I have people from around the world sending me messages of love and support and that is all I am focusing on.”

She adds: “I am not blinded or delusional about the hatred but I do genuinely believe that music unites — I have experienced it. I get messages from people of different opinions but they’ve connected to the music and the song and the singing.

On her chances of winning, she is circumspect: “I don’t have super-high expectations, but I believe I have a great song and anything is possible.”

Her tough media-trained demeanour cracks only when the discussion turns to the rising incidents of antisemitism recorded across Europe, particularly the UK, since October 7. Her message for JC readers is both touching and defiant: “Keep your heads up. We are a beautiful people who need to be proud of who we are. We are one big, huge, family and we will never stop showing our love and our unity.”

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