The Latest on the Grand Final of the Eurovision Song Contest (all times local):
Israel’s prime minister has called the country’s Eurovision representative to wish him luck in the contest.
Benjamin Netanyahu’s office says he spoke to Kobi Marimi Saturday night to tell him the “the entire nation is supporting you.”
Marimi, with his song “Home,” is considered a long shot to win. He has a tough act to follow after Netta Barzilai won it all for Israel last year with her spunky pop anthem “Toy.”
Israel has won the Eurovision four previous times and it has provided the country with some cultural touchstones. “Hallelujah” became the country’s unofficial national song after Milk and Honey won the contest Israel hosted in the late 1970s, and Dana International became a national hero and global transgender icon when she won with “Diva” in 1998.
The Grand Final of the 64th Eurovision Song Contest is under way.
Europe’s annual music extravaganza will crown one of 26 entries with dreams of following in the footsteps of past winners such as Swedish pop icons ABBA and Celine Dion, who represented Switzerland.
The show is taking place at Tel Aviv’s Expo Center, starting at 10 p.m. Saturday (1900 GMT.) Some 200 million people around the world are expected to be watching.
Israel earned the right to host the show after Netta Barzilai carried off last year’s prize with her spunky pop anthem “Toy.”
The show of European unity brings together acts from 41 countries, including those with little connection to Europe, such as Australia.
The final round’s winner will be influenced by TV viewers casting votes via text message.