by Rabbi Andrew Shaw, Chief Executive, Mizrachi UK

The below Dvah Torah was originally emailed by Mizrachi UK, and reproduced below with permission.

It has been a custom of mine for a few years.

My dear friend Gavin Ucko asked me a couple of years back to link my weekly Dvar Torah to the Eurovision Song Contest on the Shabbat of the final.

So, the custom began, yet I was sure it was going to end this year.

With the situation in Israel and antisemitism rising globally, I didn’t feel it would be appropriate to write a Dvar Torah linking to Eurovision this year. I need to focus my words on more weighty matters!

However, as the week went on, I unfortunately could see the links for this year.

I was saddened to see that the same hatred and bigotry that many Jews are being subjected to globally by the Islamist/far left alliance was being directed at Israel’s 20 year old Eurovision representative, Eden Golan. I saw that she had to stay in her room for personal safety! Sickening.

It got worse when she came to the dress rehearsal, someone posted footage on our community WhatsApp group. Her song was drowned out with boos from the audience and you could hardly hear her.

The comments on our WhatsApp group about this were interesting.

One said ‘Major booing. This is what Israel’s reputation has become!’

I replied to this by saying ‘Nothing to do with reputation but pure Jew hatred!’

Gavin replied live from the arena, ‘Just watched it again…that booing was orchestrated and it was stopped by other fans… I think hundreds were sent in there to disrupt.’

A few minutes later he told us.

‘Ok – I have seen loads more videos. It’s horrendous.’

Gavin’s last comment to us that night was the following:

‘I’m actually pretty devastated, because I really didn’t think this was going to happen. That might sound naive, but the vast majority of comments on the groups have been supportive. You have to understand that Eurovision fans love Eurovision. How awful the song might be, they just want to be there and be supportive. So, I’m genuinely surprised that this has happened. My prediction is that tomorrow night [the semi-final], the viewing public will see a recorded performance. That however is not going to prevent reactions if Israel go through.’

A changed world indeed. There were even questions to him on the group if Israel would receive zero points. They were falling in the odds, down to 35-1 and things seemed to be mirroring the rest of the world. Jew hatred was alive and well!

We were all wating to hear what would happen last night and Gavin reported there was not a single boo during her performance.

Then it came to the votes, and I was not confident of Israel getting to the final. At the semi-finals they just tell you the countries that qualify, not how many votes they got. Surprisingly to many of us, Israel got through to the final.

Then at 11pm something happened which absolutely convinced me to write this dvar torah about Eurovision this year.

Although they are not supposed to do it, Italian TV broadcast the results of the Italian televote – i.e. who the Italian public voted for.

There were 16 countries to vote for. The lowest was Norway which got just 1.55% of the vote, the next 14 varied from 1.68% to 7.32%. However, the country that was voted number one got 39.31%!!!

That country was Israel.

It was an insane result and it sent the betting world into a frenzy. Within an hour Israel became the second favourite to win Eurovision and their odds were slashed to 4-1. Yes, the song is good, but not THAT good!

Why? Why did the Italian public vote overwhelmingly for Israel?

The answer I think is simple and beautiful and not surprisingly links to this weeks’ Parsha, Yom Ha’atzmaut and the wonderful Weekend of Inspiration next weekend.

We look at the world and we see an awful lot of hatred directed towards Israel and the Jewish people. The protests draw tens of thousands globally. In America, Biden is refusing to send arms to Israel and social media is awash with antisemitic and anti-Zionist filth.

Yet, what we saw yesterday was that it is small, but very vocal minority who spew the hate. The vast majority of people, I hope, understand that one side is a genocidal terrorist barbarian entity, and the other is a democratic, western, sovereign state.  And they know who they support.

As we read this week in Parshat Kedoshim:

And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, speak to the entire congregation of the children of Israel, and say to them, You shall be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy. (Vayikra 19-1,2)

Kedoshim is full of Mitzvot Ben Adam l’Chaveiro, (mitzvot between each other), demonstrating that to be a Jew is to also build a fair and just society. To look after the less fortunate, to be honest in business, to have morality within relationships. This is how you become holy.

Ideally on a national level, this is what we should want from the Jewish state.

Now I agree, Israel is not perfect, but many times it does achieve and is an Or La Goyim, a light to the nations whilst also striving to create a society that reflects Jewish values.

Israel’s declaration of Independence states:

THE STATE OF ISRAEL will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel.

This is the country that gives pride to the vast majority of Jewish people across the world. It has inspired me and so many of my friends, I have learnt there, lived there and been inspired there. My son is currently in Yeshiva there. Please God in the future I will live there.

However, it is not just Jews that admire the State of Israel. Many, many non-Jews also understand the battle that Israel has been facing from day one, as well as being in awe of the country that has been created. They can distinguish between good and evil, even if the vocal minority cannot.

The Italian result was not meant to be known. Those results are only released after the Final. Yet we know. It is the only country that we know the results from at the moment and how ironic that it was Italy.

On Monday night we will celebrate one of the greatest modern-day miracles and thank Hashem for our return to our homeland.

For almost 2000 years we wandered the world exiled by a global colossus whose empire crushed the Jewish people.

That nation was Rome, millions were slain and blood flowed freely – it was the beginning of the longest exile ever endured by a people.

Yet, here we are thousands of years later, we are back in our homeland, of which we celebrate 76 years on Monday night, and where is the mighty Roman Empire  – it is no more.

Yet, in the same city that the Roman Empire originated, 2000 years later,  Radio televisione italiana accidently broadcasts to the world, on the eve of Yom Ha’atzmaut and gives the message that their people are with Israel and are with the people that have been subjected to and fighting against evil for millennia. Those citizens are against the hatred and darkness that we see on a daily basis.

Perhaps, not just in Italy, but the public in the other 35 countries will vote the same way, demonstrating that humanity has not been captured by a warped ideology and that Israel and the Jewish people are not as alone as people may think.

Whatever the result of the 36 countries’ votes on Shabbat, what is far more important is the 36 speakers coming from Israel next weekend to inspire and uplift us all!

They are bringing Torat Yisrael to the UK and it behoves us to make an effort to come and hear them from Thursday night launches through to the incredible Day of Inspiration in SEVEN different locations across the UK.

Please visit Mizrachi.org.uk/woi to view all the speakers and venues and book your place for this momentous weekend.

Next week is also a time to vote, to vote with your feet and join us!

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach

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