Away from Coronavirus, a young Ethiopian singing Israel’s 2020 Eurovision entry in four languages is just what the doctor ordered
By David E. Kaplan
WOW! It was Purim this week but it did not feel like it.
One of Israel’s most widely celebrated festivals that is traditionally embraced by religious Jews in Jerusalem and secular Tel Avivians alike was a damper. Instead of parents joining their kids in donning colourful costumes, they donned anxious expressions as public areas were eerily quiet. From my highrise balcony in Kfar Saba, I would normally have a grand view of the Purim Parade down the main street and the piazza. Not this year – for March 2020 has been hijacked by something I had never heard of until two months ago – CORONAVIRUS!
Too frequently writing on the other more familiar virus of global antisemitism, this one caught me off guard together with the rest of the world.
Only hours after Italy announced that its entire population was under lockdown, Israel followed with its most extreme measure to date of requiring ALL people entering the country to go into immediate 14-day isolation.
Turn on the TV news networks, open the newspapers, it’s all about Coronavirus – facts, figures, measures and counter-measures. The customary news of Israel’s failure to form a government and the USA’s Democratic Party’s primary elections were sidelined to the proverbial smaller print. Coronavirus has captured the world’s attention and in so doing, dislodged our set perspectives on news. Suddenly we did not fear Iran over any nefarious activities seeking our destruction but shared common concern that “54 Iranians had died from the virus in the past 24 hours recording the highest toll in a single day since the start of the outbreak in the country.” Borders were blurred as we showed concern for people effected from Wuhan in China to San Francisco in the USA and the worst – in between in Italy.
We were forced to recognise how fragile our world is and how vulnerable we are as individuals!
With the constant infusion of distressing news of cancellations of conferences and sporting events, airlines grounded, hotels closing, people quarantined, economies paralyzed, and forecasts of a global recession but too early in the day for a medicinal scotch, I turned off the news and tuned into Israel’s latest entry into the 2020 Eurovision Song Contest.
While the 2020 Eurovision in Holland may end up another Coronavirus casualty, Israel’s singer and song are a sheer delight. Watch and listen – it is a well-deserved הפסקה (“hafsaka”) or “break” as we say in Israel from the daily dose of news.
Last month, when we were thinking less about Coronavirus, Eden Alene, a 19-year-old Ethiopian Israeli won the country’s “The Next Star” and became this year’s representative to the 2020 Eurovision Song Contest in Rotterdam.
On stage she hugged her mother – that emotional embrace watched in living rooms across the nation, spoke volumes – it had clearly been a long road for this mother and daughter pair.
Alene’s win has been significant for Israel and its Ethiopian community, as she will be the first Israeli of Ethiopian descent to represent the Jewish state at Eurovision.
The song ‘Feker Libi’ – co-written by Israel’s 2018 winning entry ‘Toy,’ Doron Medalie and Idan Raichel, a top-selling singer-songwriter – is described as “a colourful pop gem that fuses together African dance beats with an infectious middle eastern sound.” The lyrics of the song are made up of four languages – Hebrew, Arabic, English and Amharic – and the name of the song, means “My Love” in Amharic. The song connects with Eden’s roots, having both parents originally hail from Ethiopia.
Interestingly, the roots of the cowriter of the song, Doron Medalie is also African.
If Medalie’s lyrics were “daring” in his song “Toy”, sung by Netta Barzilai, that won for Israel the 2018 Eurovision Song Contest, it’s because he comes from a lineage of daring. His late grandfather, Dr. Jack Medalie, left his private practice in Johannesburg, South Africa, to volunteer – serving as a doctor in Israel’s War of Independence. What’s more, before leaving in early 1948, he quickly rushed to marry his sweetheart and came on his honeymoon to a country at war, all ready to provide ‘a healing hand’.
“Love” and “healing” are what we need right now – so take a “hafsaka” (break) from Coronavirus and listen: