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Eurovision Kicks Off in Israel to Great Fanfare

The annual Eurovision Song Contest kicked off in Tel Aviv Tuesday night with the first round of semi-finals. Seventeen countries vied for 10 spots to be sent to Saturday night’s finals, with acts from Greece, Estonia, Australia, Iceland, San Marino, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Belarus, Serbia and Cyprus making it through. The second round of semi-finals will take place on Thursday evening, when entrants from 18 countries will seek to win an additional 10 spots that send them to the finals. Israel’s entrant – Kobi Marimi – has a guaranteed spot in the finals by virtue of Israeli Netta Barzilai’s victory in the contest last year. Although virtually unknown in the United States, hundreds of millions of people across the globe will tune in for the Eurovision finals, when pop icon Madonna – who has dismissed calls for her to boycott the event because it is being held in Israel – is slated to perform.