RISING UP:Showcasing Israel and Progressive Values in Unison
by Noah Phillips
We were all electrified by Netta’s Eurovision performance. Whether you were bobbing your head and clucking your arms, or, like me, swelling with Israeli pride while partly confused with the European infatuation with this kind of music, we loved her moment. Netta, a proud representative of Israeli culture (“Next year in Jerusalem!”she declared to 180+ million viewers) and an important voice for the #MeToo movement of female empowerment, was fantastic in all respects.
As one of the foremost celebrities originating from Israel should, Netta embodies the progressive and inclusive principles of Israeli society through her music and personal triumphs. Netta’s hit song, “Toy,”is emblematic of the #MeToo movement, embracing feminism and denouncing patriarchy of the past. The song rejects the objectification of women and resonates with a global audience at a time when individuals are disclosing painful past experiences of sexual assault.
From her various interviews, we know of Netta’s personal struggles with bulimia and bullying from others about her weight and appearance. In Eurovision, Netta embraced her eccentricities and quirks. Garbed in a Japanese kimono and, at times, clucking like a chicken, Netta sang powerfully and connected with a diverse audience.
Her personal life story and messages conveyed through her music reach a current audience of young progressives demanding change from ideas of exclusivity and elitism–be it weight, size, race, or other markers. Netta’s words: “Thank you so much for accepting differences between us. Thank you for celebrating diversity. Thank you!”
Netta’s messaging as a champion of diversity only bolsters Israel’s international reputation, particularly among progressive-millennials. It’s a stark contrast to both Israel’s general European and American-liberal perception as a state of apartheid, utilizing differences as divisors to further hate. To see Netta succeed while carrying her progressive ideals brings Israel’s complex reality and a more nuanced and positive state of Israeli society to millions of viewers. For example, while the LGBTQ community seeks acceptance and support in many closed, restrictive countries, Israeli society is known for embracing LGBTQ causes, and Israel’s largest city, Tel Aviv, hosts an annual week-long celebration of gay pride which attracts thousands of attendees from across the world. While the United States still awaits our first female president, Israel already reached that milestone nearly half a century ago. And while Jews have been expelled throughout history from Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia, Yemen, and Spain among other nations due to religious intolerance, Israeli-Arabs enjoy religious freedom and integration in Israeli society, a fact often overlooked by Israel’s detractors.
Netta helps defy stereotypes personally and even about the State of Israel. Her influential agendas of feminism and gender equality are timely; similarly, her declarations of Israeli pride and inclusivity through her performances are long overdue.
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