Israel’s Eurovision champ heads to Europe with empowerment message

Israeli 2018 Eurovision Song Contest winner Netta Barzilai poses for a photograph on November 03, 2018, in the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv. (AFP)
Updated 04 November 2018
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Israel’s Eurovision champ heads to Europe with empowerment message

  • Her winning song “Toy” became an anthem for others who, like her, have been bullied or made to feel like an outcast
  • Her upcoming tour, which begins on November 12, includes venues in Austria, Germany, Switzerland and Britain, as well as a November 17 show at the Salle Wagram in Paris

TEL AVIV: With a multicolored kimono, clucking sounds and chicken-like dance moves, Israeli singer Netta Barzilai won over audiences with a hit inspired by the #MeToo movement to claim the Eurovision Song Contest.
Now as she sets off on her first European tour the pop star has told AFP in an interview that she aims to pass on a message of empowerment after overcoming her own self doubts.
Her winning song “Toy” became an anthem for others who, like her, have been bullied or made to feel like an outcast.
She has said her childhood was marked by teasing over her body and bouts of bulimia.
“We’re made to feel small in all kinds of situations. I don’t want to feel small anymore,” the 25-year-old said Saturday at her publicist’s apartment in Israel’s economic capital Tel Aviv.
“I want to empower and love, to be empowered and empower others. Because when we send out good energy, it comes back at us and makes the world a better place.”
Her upcoming tour, which begins on November 12, includes venues in Austria, Germany, Switzerland and Britain, as well as a November 17 show at the Salle Wagram in Paris.
Articulate and intense, Barzilai said she applied for a spot representing Israel in 2018’s Eurovision in Lisbon because she was failing to make ends meet as an experimental musician.
“I knew nothing about Eurovision,” she confessed.
Before the contest shook up her life, Barzilai said, she and her band would “be paid in beer and basically jam.”
“I’d get drunk, sing on the tables, eat French fries off people’s plates and sing about them,” she recounted.
“I tried to get a job in music but was too unique to stand behind someone as a backing vocal or to sing in weddings.”
Barzilai’s mother pushed her to leave Tel Aviv and return to their home in central Israeli city Hod Hasharon and her father suggested she learn agronomy and join him in the family business.
In despair, she turned to an Israeli reality singing show, the winner of which would represent the country at Eurovision.
She never expected anything would come of the local exposure beyond maybe “getting gigs.”
But she eventually made it through and took her eccentric look and show to Lisbon, where her victory earned Israel the right to hold the 2019 Eurovision, which will take place in Tel Aviv.
Basking in the “superman powers” she received after her win, Barzilai can now return to Europe as a star with a repertoire blending her Eurovision fame and avant-garde roots.
There have been calls for artists to boycott next year’s Eurovision in Tel Aviv over Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory, but Barzilai doesn’t think a boycott will solve anything.
“Instead of boycotting we should think how we can help, how to improve the situation,” she said.
“Tell me where to sing to solve the world’s problems and I’ll go.”
Unconcerned that the calls to stay away could harm next year’s event, she added: “I think it will be very happy here and those voices are small ones.”


North Korea destroys 10 guard posts to lower tensions

Updated 4 min 8 sec ago
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North Korea destroys 10 guard posts to lower tensions

  • Seoul’s Defense Ministry said it confirmed the dismantling of 10 North Korean guard posts on Tuesday
  • South Korea began dismantling 10 of its guard posts with dynamite and excavators last week
SEOUL: North Korea on Tuesday blew up some of its front-line guard posts as part of an agreement to ease tensions along its heavily fortified border with South Korea, Seoul’s Defense Ministry said.
In September, the Koreas’ militaries agreed at a leaders’ summit in Pyongyang to eventually dismantle all guard posts inside the 248-kilometer long, 4-kilometer wide border. They later withdrew weapons and troops from 11 of their guard posts and decided to completely dismantle 10 of them by the end of November.
Seoul’s Defense Ministry said it confirmed the dismantling of 10 North Korean guard posts on Tuesday. It said North Korean soldiers had used hammers to tear down parts of the guard posts ahead of Tuesday’s near-simultaneous demolitions. A ministry statement said North Korea had informed the South of its plans in advance.
The ministry released photos showing parts of structures on what it said was the North Korean side of the central portion of the border, an explosion with black smoke at the site, and debris scattered around the area with no trace left of the structure.
South Korea began dismantling 10 of its guard posts with dynamite and excavators last week. Ministry officials said Tuesday that they haven’t completed the dismantling work yet.
The Korean border, the world’s most heavily armed with an estimated 2 million land mines, has been the site of deadly fighting and bloodshed. Called the Demilitarized Zone, it was originally created as a buffer at the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.
South Korea had about 60 posts inside the DMZ guarded by layers of barbed wire and manned by troops with machine guns. North Korea was estimated to have 160 such front-line posts. Once the dismantling is done, the two Koreas are to jointly verify their work by the end of December. They haven’t decided when they will dismantle the rest of the guard posts.
Under the September agreements, the Koreas have also taken steps to disarm the shared border village of Panmunjom, halted live-fire drills along the border and have been removing mines at a front-line area to conduct their first joint searches for Korean War dead.
Relations between the Koreas have improved since North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reached out to South Korea and the United States early this year with a vague promise to achieve the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. US-North Korea talks on the North’s nuclear program haven’t produced much progress since Kim and US President Donald Trump held the countries’ first summit in Singapore in June.