Unable to film in Ukraine, Eurovision Song Contest winners made their intro video in Israel

(JTA) – This year’s Eurovision Song Contest did not go Israel’s way – but even though the country did not reach the final for the first time in six years, it did have a performance at Turin, Italy, Saturday.

That’s because Ukraine, which won the contest with Kalush Orchestra’s rap song “Stefania,” filmed its intro video in Israel.

The intro, known in Eurovision lingo as the ‘postcard’, features contestants who are usually filmed at a location of their choice in the country hosting this year’s contest (normally the country that won the previous year).

But the war has complicated travel outside Ukraine, where civilian flights have all but stopped since the Russian invasion on February 24. And filming in this war-torn country has also become difficult and potentially dangerous.

So, last month, Ukrainian public broadcaster Suspilne organized the Kalush Orchestra’s trip to Israel and recorded their “postcard” video there, which was shown during the grand finale before the contestants’ live performance.

The Ukrainian group in Israel took place at the Jewish Agency headquarters in Jerusalem, in the very room where Chaim Weizmann was sworn in as Israel’s first president, according to The Times of Israel.

The final video does not feature Israel in any way. It shows the band members, who were filmed on green screen, against drone footage of several landmarks in Italy.

At a Jewish Agency facility in Israel, which helped bring Kalush Orchestra and 23 other contestants for an annual Israeli pre-Eurovision event called “Israel Calling,” the Ukrainian band also performed for Jewish refugees from Ukraine. About 50 of the refugees enjoyed a live, unplugged rendition of “Stefania,” a rap number featuring traditional Ukrainian instruments and motifs.

“In the beginning, we spent all our time rehearsing online, because because of the war it was impossible to get together,” the group’s founder and vocalist, Oleh Psiuk, told reporters in Jerusalem in April. But then “the permit was given to us to leave the country and go back and forth, and that’s how we arrived in Israel,” he added.

Ukraine was heavily favored to win this year’s competition, in part because the public vote plays a role in determining the Eurovision winner.

Israel is a Eurovision superpower with four wins so far. But for the first time in six years, the country’s entry did not even reach the Grand Final, which took place in Turin, Italy, on Saturday. Michael Ben David’s “IM” didn’t make it past the semi-finals.