The beacons are lit: how the world stood with Eden

Eden Golan of Israel enters the arena during the flag parade before the Grand Final of the Eurovision Song Contest in Malmo, Sweden, May 11, 2024. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
Eden Golan of Israel enters the arena during the flag parade before the Grand Final of the Eurovision Song Contest in Malmo, Sweden, May 11, 2024. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

I’ll admit it: I’ve never really been that into Eurovision before. And certainly never the way I was last Saturday. Sure, as a Brit who remembers the Eighties, I have some vague, fuzzy memories of Bucks Fizz and ‘Making Your Mind Up,’ and a costume change mid-song – on reflection, a cute gimmick that I think swayed a lot of voters – but it’s never really been my thing. Last year, I went to my first Eurovision party. Hosted by an Israeli couple, two absolutely fabulous and lovely human beings whose generosity and spirit made for an entertaining and appropriately camp evening. Especially being serenaded by the wonderful Queera Lynnn, who hosted impeccably and just about toed the line of X-rated profanity and good old British slapstick.

A man wearing a keffiyeh looks out of a window as anti-Israel protesters demonstrate in Malmo, Sweden, on May 11, 2024 (Tobias SCHWARZ / AFP)

Last Saturday night, however, was different. All week we witnessed unconscionable and truly heinous protests directed at a 20-year old singer. Her crime? She comes from Israel and has the voice of an angel. We witnessed death threats and violence unparalleled at this kind of event. Tens of thousands of the most deplorable ‘protestors’ outside her hotel room in febrile Malmö keeping her confined there all week. Hundreds of security guards to protect her from the baying masses and worse. Skewed and twisted commentary, distortions, and politicisation by mainstream media. Pointed barbs and disgusting grandstanding and point-scoring by fellow ‘artists’, presenters, and competitors. And why? Because she wanted to join a contest supposedly about unifying people with music. Yes, music, ‘the highest form of art’. Clearly not exempt from the return of the oldest hatred. Dress it up in any costume you like – worse than some of those simpering ingenues on show – but it’s antisemitism wrapped up in an anti-Zionist leitmotif.

Anti-Israel demonstrators protest against Israel’s President Isaac Herzog attending the opening of the new National Holocaust Museum in Amsterdam, Netherlands, March 10, 2024. (AP Photo/Phil Nijhuis)

How all this is supposed to help Gaza, the Palestinians, bring about peace, is a question not even worth answering. The new fashion for the great unwashed and uninformed, slapping on keffiyehs and chanting slogans they don’t understand in any sense. Giving them a sense of belonging and identity that takes them away from their vapid and empty lives, making them feel powerful and important, while they have no idea that they are under the thrall of monsters. Monsters who mock them and laugh at their utter idiocy and delusion. I repeat, for those in the cheap seats: she’s a girl who wanted to sing. Period.

But what unfolded over the last ten days or so, as I tried to follow my own advice and ‘follow the light’, has taken me away from my anger, and into pure emotion and love. It’s taken my breath away. Despite the same abuse, vitriol and hatred heard outside being repeated in the arena – maybe even in part because of it – she sang her heart out, rose above it all, and her voice soared to the heavens. They went low and she went high, in every sense of the word. Higher than that voice that breaks me over and again. I haven’t once been able to listen to ‘Hurricane’ without ugly-crying and sobbing, great heaving tears and choked grief and joy. Then I saw Boaz Tamir and Uri Gallero’s stunningly created visualisation that accompanied it and the floodgates opened even further, building to a crescendo on Saturday. Followed by the shock of my life: maybe, just maybe, some of the world still stands with music and art, and with Israel and the Jewish Diaspora?

Troops of the 460th Armored Brigade operate in northern Gaza’s Jabaliya, in a handout photo published May 13, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

I’m not going to get into the politics of the war right here and now. I clearly have a dog in this fight. I’m Jewish and a Zionist. But first and foremost I’m a humanist who would give anything for even a modicum of peace, love and understanding in the world. I will touch on the politicisation of Eurovision and some observations from what unfolded. But I’m going to ignore – or more politely just sidestep – what I heard and saw from the Dutch, Irish, Greek, British, French acts last week. Because when I say ‘the beacons were lit’ that night, I don’t want anything to take away from that. I know it’s just Eurovision. However the scale of the audience is so very vast, and the impact of this could be so very significant.

A worker on a lift adjusts the EU flags in front of EU headquarters in Brussels, on June 23, 2016. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo, File)

The Eurovision jury voting – like the EU writ large – has always been political and somewhat hilariously so in days gone by before the audience vote was even a thing. But despite the madness infecting the world more rapidly than the spread of Covid – a mass psychosis I never dreamt I would witness in my lifetime (how wrong I was) – there were some judges, some countries, some heroes who did in fact award points to Eden Golan. Despite everything, and defiant in the face of the bellows and mewing of the herds of sheeple in the arena, the following jurors stood with music, with art, with light and with love. So thank you to the brave, loving and wise judges from:

– Malta

– Norway

– Germany

– Georgia

– Moldova

– Estonia

– France

– Belgium

– Latvia

– Cyprus

– Lithuania

This Israeli singer was never going to score highly in these times, but wow, kudos to those who stood firm (sidebar: meh, to the delegate from Austria, but I digress). However, the crucial audience vote meant everything. And don’t get me wrong: winning this contest was and is still largely irrelevant. The audience vote however was truly telling and, for me at least, some welcome light in dark times. Eden Golan received the second highest audience vote. I’ll repeat that: the SECOND highest. The UK gave it’s twelve points – the maximum on offer, for the uninitiated – to Israel. The world found its’ voice, as Eden Golan found hers. And perhaps exactly because they were disgusted by how this twenty-year old girl had been treated. Hoisted by your own petard much Greta Thunberg et al?

In ‘The Hobbit,’ Bilbo Baggins discovers trouble brewing in the forests of Middle-earth. (Courtesy of Warner Bros. via JTA)

I love Tolkien’s ‘Lord of The Rings’ more than is probably healthy. So, in my own Bilbo Baggins way, that night naturally and the days since made me think of a pivotal moment in the story. The wise and powerful wizard of the light Gandalf tells it like it is to the flawed and arrogant Steward of Gondor, Denethor. Note: he’s a weak and vainglorious leader, not dissimilar to those at the helm on both sides of the war in Israel and Gaza. And further afield in The Middle East for that matter.

“You still have friends. You’re not alone in this fight.
Send word to Théoden of Rohan. Light the beacons.”

What follows is an epic sequence that gives me the same goosebumps as listening to ‘Hurricane’ even now: a chain reaction ensues, one beacon leading to the next being lit. In the darkest of hours, what is in essence little more than a succession of candles burning quietly upon the mountaintops leads Gandalf to utter with relief:

‘Hope is kindled’.

That’s how I felt, in the early hours of Sunday morning, as my daughter slept beside me having made it through the marathon 25 acts in tonight’s’ Eurovision, before succumbing to slumber. Over half a year since the atrocities of October 7th and now living through the subsequent chaos, horror, suffering, carnage, and loss in Gaza, I still today feel a brief sense of hope returning. I feel like I still have friends in the world outside of my Jewish community. That there are fraternities and bonds that have not been irrevocably broken, despite the complicit silence of many, and the hatred and poison of even more.

While the unimaginable suffering of those mourning, the families of the hostages, those innocent victims of Israel’s inevitable and in many ways unavoidable response endures… accompanied by the drumbeat of Jew hatred that washes like a tsunami-demon summoned from the depths of hell… maybe last Saturday can be that first beacon lit? Maybe the tide can turn? Perhaps it’s time for the world to again stand together, against hatred, listen to music, set aside divisive politics and religious fanaticism, and end this war, for the good of all. That there’s a better fight to be had right now. Maybe the souls lost on all sides, the lives cut short so tragically, the unbearable pain and heartache can stand for something? To predictably get all Tolkien about it again, as Samwise Gamgee so plaintively points out:

‘That there’s some good in this world Master Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for’.

Eden Golan of Israel enters the arena during the flag parade before the Grand Final of the Eurovision Song Contest in Malmo, Sweden, May 11, 2024. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

Kol hakavod Eden Golan. Bravo to the judges and the voters, the peace-loving and the wise. May the beacon lit by your bravery and talent, courage, and voice, inspire the world to light more beacons, lay down their weapons, and simply listen to the music. Let’s move towards the light and work together to heal the world. For all humanity. For my sleeping child. And for peace, salaam, shalom aleichem, inshallah, for us all, each and every one.

About the Author
Jeremy Michaels writes from London with a passion for a range of subjects including being Jewish in The Diaspora, geo-politics, personal growth and the media industry. As a specialist consultant to a number of industries, he currently writes for a number of business-focused online publications.
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