In the first semifinal on Tuesday, 16 countries were fighting for 10 of the 26 slots available in Saturday’s final. Eden commanded the stage in a shimmering jacket, flanked by a group of male dancers with her hair styled into a sculptural crown. The standout moment of her performance may have been the “whistle note” in her song “Set Me Free” — the highest note ever sung on a Eurovision stage. The next 10 finalists will be selected in the second semifinal on Thursday, May 18; six slots are held for what’s known as the Big Five (France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK), along with last year’s winner, the Netherlands, who also hosts the contest.
Israel’s Eurovision competitor is chosen in a TV contest, “HaKochav HaBa” (“The Next Star”), where Eden triumphed in 2019. She was set to represent Israel in the 2020 Eurovision competition with a different song, “Feker Libi,” before that year’s event was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She had also previously won “The X Factor Israel” in 2017 at just 17 years old. (For her audition, she sang “Stone Cold” by Demi Lovato.)
Born in Katamon, a neighborhood in Jerusalem, to Jewish parents born in Ethiopia and made aliyah to Israel, Eden’s selection marks the first time an Ethiopian Jew has competed for Israel at Eurovision. Eden has said, “It is an insane honor to represent my country. It is amazing that an Ethiopian is doing it for the first time. Think about where we were when the Ethiopians first started making aliyah and look at where we are now. It’s a whole new world.”
Eurovision 2021 is streaming in the U.S. on Peacock. Find out how to watch here.