Win at Eurovision giving Israeli transsexual international headlines
May 11, 1998
JERUSALEM (CNN) -- A new battle has exploded in volatile Israel, but this one has nothing to do with land rights or terrorist acts. It centers around 29-year-old transsexual Dana International, who was the winner of the Eurovision song contest on Saturday. With the victory, Israel will be the host of next year's Eurovision contest.
Dana returned home to cheers from fans, but some Orthodox Jews say the singer sent the wrong message about Israel, where homosexuality is a crime and, according to the deputy cabinet minister of the country, transsexuals are deviants.
"I feel shamed," said Rabbi Shlomo Benizri, "because during all the generations the Jewish people sent light to the world, and now we send darkness to the world, even if we won."
Dana, who underwent a sex and name change four years ago, doesn't care what Benizri, or other Orthodox Jews, think about the victory.
"I represent the regular Israelis, all the Arabs, the Christians," Dana said. "Everyone who wants to be represented by me, he gets the (victory). Those who despair of me, I don't care about them."
But the fight will continue. Orthodox politicians are already protesting the hosting of the event in Jerusalem next year.
"In order to win the Eurovision after 20 years, we had to send a gimmick. It's a sign of the bankruptcy of Israeli song," Benizri said. "God is against this phenomenon. It's a sickness you must cure and not give legitimacy."
The mayor of Jerusalem, meanwhile, refused to back down in support of the event, saying his city will play gracious host in 1999, "no doubt about it."
The Eurovision song contest pits contestants from 25 different countries against each other. Dana won with the catchy song "Diva."
by Jerrold Kessel, CNN