Australian Eurovision fans turn out in Israel despite security concerns

Australian fans in Tel Aviv say they are not concerned about the security situation despite fatal clashes in the region and boycotts of this year's song contest.

Ben Lewis reports from Tel Aviv, Israel.

On a balmy Israel evening, Kate Miller-Heidke is performing a stripped back version of her Eurovision track Zero Gravity.

Even without the gimmicks you’ll see on stage during the Eurovision broadcasts next week, she commands attention with her opera-meets-pop performance.

And watching on are some of Australia’s biggest Eurovision fanatics.

Eurovision fans
Eurovision fans watch Kate Miller-Heidke perform in Tel Aviv. Source: SBS

They’re the early arrivals, keen to soak up as much of the atmosphere as possible ahead of the first semi-final on Tuesday, where they rate Miller-Heidke’s chances. 

“I absolutely adore her, I was in the arena today watching the second rehearsal, and it’s just breath-taking,” said Danie Tregonning, host of Eurovision podcast Wind Machine.

“I can’t wait for the rest of Australia to see it.”

But the focus isn’t entirely on the music at this contest, with events away from the rehearsal stage in the host nation dominating Eurovision discussion. 

Last weekend saw two days of fatal cross-border blows between Israel and Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip. Rehearsals for Eurovision continued as scheduled and a ceasefire seems to be holding, for now.

Travel advice from Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs suggests tourists "exercise a high degree of caution" in Tel Aviv and reconsider the need to visit the West Bank.

The Gaza Strip is listed as a no-go zone. 

Troy and Danie
Eurovision fans Troy and Danie. Source: SBS

“Considering the situation, what’s happened so far and the lengths people are going to to make things safe, I was happy to come, and feel safe while I’m here,” Eurovision fan Michael Polh told SBS News.

“I’ve been here about a week, everything’s very normal I think, the people are lovely, the beaches are fantastic, and to come from Melbourne to sunny Tel Aviv, I’m getting a tan, I’m happy.”

Gemma Schuhmann is a Eurovision veteran, having travelled to Kiev, Lisbon, Stockholm and now Tel Aviv to fulfil her passion for Europop. 

She didn’t have any second thoughts about visiting Israel.  

“People still live here and people still live their lives,” she said. 

“It’s still a celebration so, I feel like it’s going to be fine. If something goes wrong, it goes wrong.”

Danie Tregonning says arriving in Israel allayed any fears she had.

“I know my Mum was really scared, but now that I’m here she’s relaxed a bit because everyone is so chill and lovely,” she said.

“It’s been amazing, the country is lovely, the people are lovely and we’re here for Eurovision!” 

Michel and Gemma
Australian Eurovision fans Michel and Gemma. Source: SBS

Calls by some prominent global performers, including Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters, for artists to boycott the contest continue to make waves. Several of this year’s Eurovision entrants have opted to avoid discussion of the conflict during interviews. 

Miller-Heidke previously told the Press Association she respects Waters’ view, although she disagrees with it.

At this week's Australian Embassy event, it is clear she stands by her decision to compete.

“So far, I’m having a ball, we’ve been out and seen some of the country, learning about the history and the people, it’s a once in a lifetime experience and I’m so grateful to be here.”

SBS News's Ben Lewis is tweeting from Israel

The Eurovision Grand Final will be held on Sunday 19 May at 5am (AEST) with an 8pm (AEST) replay on SBS Australia. It will also be streamed on .

Head to the  for all the latest news from Tel Aviv.

4 min read
Published 10 May 2019 at 7:14pm
By Ben Lewis
Source: SBS