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Friday, May 28, 1999 Published at 15:52 GMT 16:52 UK


Religious rows disrupt Eurovision harmony

Eden rehearse for the Eurovision Song Contest

For BBC Online's Eurovision Website, click here.

The BBC's Paul Adams: "Dana International is the star of the show again"
The Eurovision Song Contest is supposed to promote peace between nations - but Saturday's competition is taking place amid controversy.

Israeli transsexual Dana International won last year's contest, wowing the British audience in Birmingham, but shocking ultra-Orthodox Jews with her flamboyant sexuality.

Now the contest is being held in Israel - and she is still at the centre of attention.

During the show she will appear in a video shot below Jerusalem's historic walls. It blends traditional religious lyrics with Stevie Wonder's 1980s hit, Free.

Dana International feels she is making an important point.

"It's the kind of message I want Israel to spread, from Jerusalem to the rest of the world. This is the capital of freedom and working together in harmony," she said.

But ultra-orthodox Jews are horrified. The presence of the transsexual Dana International is bad enough, but community newspapers are condemning what they call an obscene international event.

Dress rehearsal on the sabbath

[ image: Dana International: Transsexual causing outrage in her home country]
Dana International: Transsexual causing outrage in her home country
They also believe a dress rehearsal planned for Saturday afternoon will violate the Jewish sabbath, when all activity is banned from dusk on Friday to dusk on Saturday.

Now organisers will hold the rehearsal in private, rather than inviting the public as planned.

This year, the host nation is represented by Eden, a boy band including two singers belonging to the black Hebrew community - a sect which claims to descend from the original Israelites.

"You might see us as different coloured people up here, but we try to appeal to all creeds," said the group's Gabriel Butler.

The contestants will be hoping politics and religion won't get in the way of the contest.

But seasoned Middle East-watchers know that in Jerusalem, they have a habit of intruding on the most unlikely of occasions.

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